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Field excavated in hunt for airman's remains

PUBLISHED: 00:01 02 September 2019

The plane crashed in early June, 1944, just days before D-Day Picture: GARETH FULLER/PA Wire

The plane crashed in early June, 1944, just days before D-Day Picture: GARETH FULLER/PA Wire

A farmer's field in Essex has been dug up by the US military in the search for the remains of a missing Second World War airman.

Some of the items found at the excavation site Picture: GARETH FULLER/PA WireSome of the items found at the excavation site Picture: GARETH FULLER/PA Wire

The airman was on board a B-26 Marauder bomber that took off from RAF Stansted Mountfitchet two days ahead of D-Day on a mission to bomb a bridge in Nazi-occupied France.

The engine failed shortly after it left and the twin-engined aircraft crash landed on June 4 1944, with its six crew and cargo of two 2,000lb bombs still inside.

Four of the crew members managed to escape, a fifth died at the scene when the plane's bombs exploded and the sixth was never found.

The US military have now revealed they have been searching for the airman's remains, although they have not identified the location of the dig for fear trophy hunters may descend on the Essex site.

Members of the United States Department of Defence, at an excavation site in a field near to Stansted Airport in Essex Picture: GARETH FULLER /PA WireMembers of the United States Department of Defence, at an excavation site in a field near to Stansted Airport in Essex Picture: GARETH FULLER /PA Wire

They are not revealing the airman's name out of sensitivity to his descendants.

Sergeant First Class Peter Holderness, team sergeant, said the agency's mission is to "find and retrieve our nation's fallen service members and account for as many as possible".

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During the dig, which concluded in August, a 23-strong team sifted through excavated soil at a "wet screening" tent, using hoses to find items of interest among the dirt.

A member of the United States Department of Defence, prepares samples of earth for examination at an excavation site in a field near to Stansted Airport Picture: GARETH FULLER/PA WireA member of the United States Department of Defence, prepares samples of earth for examination at an excavation site in a field near to Stansted Airport Picture: GARETH FULLER/PA Wire

Sgt Hokderness said that "possible osseous material", matter consisting of or turned into bone, had been found during the excavation.

Lab analysis is required to "verify what it actually is". Any "material evidence" such as a dog tag or ringsfoudn have also been sent for testing.

If the tests prove inconclusive, a permit could be sought to return for a further dig in the hope of finally fidning the brave airman's remains.

The agency said any finds will be notified to the authorities, and the ariman's descendants will be notified if his remains are identified.

The next steps would be in line with the family's wishes, and the airman could be reburied at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, which is the final resting place for thousands of America's service members.

The excavation in Essex is the agency's first in the UK, and a spokesman said there are 140 cases involving unaccounted-for Americans in the UK from the Second World War.

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