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更新时间:2018-5-29 19:58:25 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A World War II Mystery Is Solved, and Emotions Flood In

After the B-24 bomber carrying Second Lt. Thomas V. Kelly Jr. was shot down off the coast of what is now Papua New Guinea in 1944, his parents had a gray tombstone etched with a drawing of the plane and the words “In Loving Memory.”

1944年小托马斯·V·凯利少尉(Second Lt. Thomas V. Kelly Jr.)的B-24轰炸机在现属巴布亚新几内亚的海岸被击落后,他的父母立起了一块灰色墓碑,上面刻着这架飞机的图案和“追忆缅怀”几个字。

The 21-year-old bombardier’s remains were never recovered, and for years, his relatives rarely discussed the pain they felt over his death.


“There were Christmas songs that would come on that my mom couldn’t even listen to,” said Diane Christie, Lieutenant Kelly’s niece.

“有时候听到某些圣诞歌曲,我妈妈都会受不了,”凯利少尉的外甥女戴安·克里斯蒂(Diane Christie)说。

But in 2013, one of Ms. Christie’s second cousins found a website with information about the bomber he had been on. That led to years of archival research, culminating in a recent search of the ocean floor by a team of oceanographers and archaeologists.


A few weeks ago, Ms. Christie’s phone rang as she was shopping for groceries in Folsom, Calif. Her sister was calling to say that Lieutenant Kelly’s plane — nicknamed Heaven Can Wait — had been found.


“I literally walked outside Whole Foods, and I burst into tears,” Ms. Christie said. “And I’m like, where did this come from? I didn’t even know my uncle.”


Heaven Can Wait is one of 30 United States aircraft retrieved by Project Recover, a six-year-old nonprofit that collaborates with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or D.P.A.A., the arm of the Pentagon tasked with finding and returning fallen military personnel.

“天堂不急”是30架由寻回计划(Project Recover)找回的美国飞机之一,这个成立六年的非营利组织正在与负责寻找并送回阵亡军人的国防部战俘及失踪军人统计署(Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency,简称D.P.A.A.)合作。

The group says its recoveries show how new sonar and robotics technologies make it far easier to find planes that crashed at sea, and that were once thought lost for good.


“It really opens up the possibility that more families can learn what happened to their family members who have been missing all this time,” said Patrick Scannon, the president of the BentProp Project, a California-based nonprofit that cooperated on the effort to find the B-24.

“这真的让更多家庭有了机会,可以去了解这些年来他们失踪家人的经历,”BentProp项目的主席帕特里克·斯坎农(Patrick Scannon)说道,这个位于加州的组织曾参与寻找这架B-24轰炸机的行动。

Since 1973, the Pentagon has recovered the remains of 2,381 United States service members and civilians, according to the military’s data. Of the more than 72,000 American service members from World War II who are still unaccounted for, approximately 26,000 are considered possibly recoverable.


The Pentagon says the number of missing United States service members identified worldwide has been rising in recent years, thanks largely to advancements in forensic science.


But as time passes, identifying remains grows harder, and it becomes more difficult to find surviving family members who can provide DNA samples, said Sgt. First Class Kristen Duus, a spokeswoman for D.P.A.A. in Washington.

但华盛顿DPAA发言人、三级军士长克里斯汀·杜斯(Sgt. First Class Kristen Duus)表示,随着时间的流逝,辨认身份还是会越来越困难,要找到可以提供DNA样本的在世家庭成员也更加困难。

“Time’s not necessarily on our side,” she said.


Before searching for missing aircraft, the Project Recover team tries to pinpoint the crash locations by interviewing veterans and analyzing historical records and modern satellite imagery. Then it searches with tools that can include thermal cameras and a sonar-equipped robot that looks like a torpedo and swims just above the seafloor.


The recovery and identification of remains from these underwater sites are conducted at the Pentagon’s discretion. Of the 30 aircraft that Project Recover has found so far, 27 are associated with 113 missing service members, and the remains of five airmen have been repatriated.


The Heaven Can Wait bomber was found last year in Hansa Bay, on Papua New Guinea’s northern coast, where five United States aircraft are believed to have gone down during World War II.


Lieutenant Kelly’s bombing mission on March 11, 1944, was part of an American effort to disrupt Japanese shipping and supply chains ahead of attacks that spring on a Japanese airfield nearby and another 360 miles northwest, said Michael J. Claringbould, a historian in Australia who specializes in World War II-era aviation in the Pacific. Many Japanese military personnel would eventually flee into nearby jungles and die of starvation.

据澳大利亚专攻二战时期太平洋航空研究的历史学家迈克尔·J·克莱林波(Michael J. Claringbould)称,凯利少尉在1944年3月11日执行的轰炸任务,是在美军对附近的一个日本机场和西北部360英里的另一个机场发动攻击前,干扰日本的货运和供应链。许多日本军人最终会逃到附近的丛林中,直至饿死。

Much of the research that helped the Project Recover team pinpoint the bomber’s location in Hansa Bay was conducted over several years by a team of family members led by Ms. Christie’s second cousin Scott L. Althaus.

帮助寻回计划团队将轰炸机定位在汉萨湾的大部分研究,都是由克里斯蒂的表亲司各特·L·奥尔索斯(Scott L. Althaus)领导的家属团队在这些年中进行的。

Mr. Althaus, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said his project began on Memorial Day five years ago with an online search for information about Lieutenant Kelly. “It snowballed from there,” he said.

奥尔索斯是伊利诺伊州立大学香槟分校(University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)的政治学教授,他表示,这个项目始于五年前的那个阵亡烈士纪念日,他在网上对凯利少尉的信息进行了一次搜索。“此后的信息便滚滚而来,”他说。

He later sent Ms. Christie and three other family members to the World War II archives at the University of Memphis, where they photographed more than 800 documents associated with the plane and its crew from the U.S. Army Air Force. (The U.S. Air Force was not established until 1947.)

后来,他派克里斯蒂和其他三名家庭成员去往孟菲斯大学(University of Memphis)查看二战档案,在那里,他们拍摄了超过800份与这架飞机及其机组人员有关的美国陆军航空队(U.S. Army Air Force)文件。(美国陆军航空队直到1947年才成立。)

He also spoke by phone with a scuba diver in Belgium who had once lived near Hansa Bay and offered guesses about where the bomber might have crashed.


Mr. Althaus said the point was never to find the plane, but simply to honor Lieutenant Kelly and the other 10 men who had been in it. “Each has a family and a future that they didn’t get to inhabit,” he said.


The bomber was found in Hansa Bay last October, the year after Mr. Althaus’s aunt contacted Project Recover.


Using Mr. Althaus’s research as a guide, the team’s scientists found the plane’s debris field after 11 days searching about 10 square miles of the bay’s seafloor with scanning sonars and underwater robots. Project Recover would not comment on the cost of the mission, although Dr. Scannon said that large ones typically cost $200,000 to $400,000.


The Pentagon has not yet decided whether it will try to recover and identify the 11 crew members of Heaven Can Wait, Lt. Col. Kenneth L. Hoffman, a D.P.A.A. spokesman in Hawaii, said in an email. He added that selecting a site for excavation could take months or even years.

DPAA夏威夷分部的发言人肯尼思·L·霍夫曼中校(Kenneth L. Hoffman)在接受电子邮件采访时表示,五角大楼尚未决定是否尝试找回“天堂不急”的11名机组人员的遗骸,并确认他们的身份。他还表示,单是选择一个合适的发掘地点可能就需要几个月甚至几年的时间。

Ms. Christie, 61, said by telephone that receiving Lieutenant Kelly’s remains would provide even more closure for her family. She has now read all of the letters he wrote home during the war, she said, and his grave in Livermore, Calif., has recently taken on new significance for her.


To honor Lieutenant Kelly and the other crew members, a B-24 bomber flew over the cemetery three times on Sunday. A 21-gun salute and flag-presentation ceremony were also held.


“It was wonderful,” Ms. Christie said.


In his correspondence, the young bombardier’s tone is often optimistic, even as he acknowledges the hardships and dangers of his assignment. In one letter, he digresses to say he took a break from writing to eat a quart of ice cream.


Ms. Christie said she was struck by how very young her uncle had been, and by his constant concern for how his family was dealing with his absence.


“If we are lucky we might get home by next Christmas, but it’s hard to say for sure,” Lieutenant Kelly wrote on Feb. 1, 1944, shortly after his 21st birthday.


“How are Mom and Dad?” he wrote on Feb. 29, less than two weeks before he died aboard Heaven Can Wait. “Are they doing a lot of needless worrying?”