An American World War II aircraft that crashed

The wreck of a rare American fighter plane which crashed during World War II remains hidden under the sand of a Gwynedd beach.

The Lockheed P-38F Lightning was found near Harlech six years ago after being covered by sand for more than 65 years.

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Its pilot, USAF Lt Robert Elliott, walked away unscathed after the plane’s engines cut out during a training flight. He was trying to make an emergency landing at the RAF airfield at Llanbedr in September 1942. Based at an airfield in Shropshire, Lt Elliott was killed a few weeks later in North Africa.

High tides had washed away layers of sand to reveal the plane’s wings, and it was found by a passer by in the spring of 2007. Experts from the USA visited the site and confirmed there are no other examples of the World War II aircraft in Europe.

But bad weather and a lack of finance has meant the aircraft, now dubbed the Maid of Harlech, has not yet been recovered from the beach.

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Richard Gillespie, of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has been trying to raise funds to pull the plane from the sands, said: The Maid of Harlech still sleeps safely in the sand.

Recovery awaits a home for the aircraft, preferably a major UK museum but none have been willing to take it on due to space and funding constraints.

He spoke at the weekend as efforts started to recover a Dornier DO-17 German bomber from the Goodwin Sands off the coast of Kent for eventual display in the RAF Museum.

A somewhat similar challenge but a bigger aircraft and upside down in 50 feet of water,noted Mr Gillespie.

Since its discovery Gwynedd Council’s maritime department has protected the site of the plane. Officers refuse to reveal its exact location because there is still high-octane fuel in its tanks. They also want to prevent parts of the aircraft being taken by souvenir hunters.

The P-38 Lightning was designed by Lockheed in California and was used most extensively and successfully in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India skies by American pilots.

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