A fighter plane that vanished 80 years ago during a WWII-era raid on Italy has been found in the country’s sea, according to a report in The Daily Mail. The story eerily mirrors the circumstances surrounding a government fighter jet that went missing in September after its pilot bailed out.
22-year-old U.S. airman Warren Singer vanished along with his P-38 Lightning on August 25, 1943, just as the allies entered Foggia, in east Italy. Singer was last detected by radar roughly 22 miles from his target in Manfredonia. His was one of seven American bombers lost that day, though 65 enemy aircraft were destroyed as well. He was survived by his wife, Margaret, who gave birth to their daughter, Peggy, in January 1944.
80 years after his plane was last heard from, Singer’s P-38 was exhumed about 40 feet beneath the Gulf of Manfredonia. Fabio Biscioti, who heads an underwater study initiative at the Italian Naval League, was the lucky person who discovered and identified the wreck.
“The plane is in pretty good condition…It most probably had a mechanical failure and ditched in the water,” Biscioti told Daily Mail. “It was not hit hard by anti-aircraft guns because it was very far away from the coast—we are talking about four miles, more or less.”
The diver identified the plane by its rare twin-boom design, and from there concluded it must be Singer’s plane because it was the only P-38 ever recorded lost in the area. Biscioti believes the airman likely bailed out before the crash but later drowned, based on the condition of the wreckage. He also cited the fact that no corpse was found inside the plane.
“The windows are open, so we are pretty sure that he managed to ditch the plane and then who knows what happened. Maybe he tried swimming or, due to his uniform, he went down,” Biscioti speculated. “We are pretty sure that he drowned,” he concluded.
When Singer left to fight overseas, the Peoria native was a second-year student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He was declared dead a year after he disappeared, on August 26, 1944. Though his children and grandchildren never had a chance to meet him, Singer spawned 12 descendants.
“We are all alive because of the very short time that Margaret and Warren had together,” Singer’s grandson, Dave Clark, said. “My mother recently realized there were three days between the wedding and him being shipped out.”
Biscioti felt the accomplishment was “a big honor,” but wished to keep the focus on Singer. “It’s important to remember that we are talking about a human being,” he said. “He was believing in what he was doing, so enemy or friend it doesn’t matter, he must be honored.”