The Most Recent Groundbreaking Discoveries of Artifacts from World War II

The Most Recent Groundbreaking Discoveries of Artifacts from World War II

By Larry Holzwarth

The Second World War was fought from the waters off the Antarctic to the Aleutian Islands. Ships were stalked by submarines and aircraft in the frigid waters above the Arctic Circle to the steaming Southwest Pacific. Spies and enemy agents crept about the alleyways and streets of communities around the world. Airbases and logistics camps were carved out of deep jungles, to be abandoned when their usefulness ended, or when they were overrun by the enemy. Ships of many nations went out to sea, never to be seen again. Likewise with aircraft dispatched on missions which were never completed, and from which they never returned. Some mysteries, such as the fate of the B-24 named Lady Be Good, were eventually solved. Others, such as what happened to famed trombonist and band leader Glenn Miller, never have.

The B-24 named Lady Be Good and the fate of its crew was discovered in the Libyan desert long after the war ended. US Air Force

More than seventy years after the end of the Second World War discoveries around the globe surprise explorers and researchers, or in some cases reward then after years of diligent search. The wrecks of great warships have been found in some cases, while in others they remain elusive. Aircraft, tanks, unexploded bombs and shells, communications equipment, and other forms of military detritus continue to be unearthed across the globe, in areas which were torn by combat and in some that were well behind the fighting lines. Occasionally the remains of some of the victims of the global calamity are discovered as well.

Here are some of the recent discoveries linked to the Second World War that remind later generations that it was far more than a passage in the history books.

USS Juneau, the sinking of which was the cause of the loss of the five Sullivan brothers, was discovered by Paul Allen. National Archives

1. The USS Juneau was the ship which carried the five Sullivan brothers

The United States Navy light cruiser Juneau was engaged in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal when it was heavily damaged by a torpedo launched from Japanese destroyer. The following morning, November 13, 1942, the damaged cruiser was steaming in company with two other cruisers when it was again torpedoed, that time by a Japanese submarine. Juneau broke in half and sank in less than a minute, and the violence of the explosion convinced the commanders of the other cruisers that there could not possibly have been survivors. The more than 100 survivors in the water clung to wreckage and rafts as they grimly watched the American warships steam away in the distance. Only ten would survive and be rescued. Among the dead were the five Sullivan brothers.

The sinking of the Juneau and the loss of the Sullivans became a war propaganda coup for the US Navy when the film The Fighting Sullivans was released, and a destroyer was named in their honor. The Navy kept quiet the fact that at least two of the brothers were among the sailors who survived the initial sinking, and several of the ten who did survive claimed they had seen three of the brothers alive in the water. In March of 2018 – on St. Patrick’s Day – the wreck of the ship on which the five brothers had served was discovered on the ocean floor by a team led by Paul Allen and Robert Kraft. The ship is over two and a half miles beneath the surface near the Solomon Islands, a war grave for the nearly 800 men who perished in it and in the waters of the Pacific after it sank.