Navy Investigates Rare WWII Curtiss Helldiver Find

Divers uncover aircraft identification number.

U.S. Navy divers are currently spending the week off the coast of Florida investigating quite an unusual find: A Curtiss SB2C Helldiver lying upside down approximately 185 feet below the water’s surface.

The aircraft was spotted several months ago by a group of individuals on a routine tech dive near the waters off the coastal town of Jupiter. Since then, questions surrounding the airplane’s history, how it got there and who was flying it, have remained a mystery.

Until now. This week the Navy brought down a team of experts from Virginia to investigate the site, and just yesterday divers recovered a vital missing piece of the puzzle: The aircraft’s bureau number.

As experts use it to uncover the aircraft’s history, Navy divers continue to explore the wreckage site, where they will attempt to enter the cockpit in the coming days. Because of the upside down position of the aircraft, that task has proven difficult up to this point, but remains a key goal as the team seeks to find out whether or not the pilots went down with the aircraft and whether there are any remains to recover.

Randy Jordan, who owns Emerald Charters and was overseeing the dive at the time of the find, said that since the story broke, he has been contacted by numerous individuals with family members lost in Helldiver accidents who were either touched by the discovery or eager to find out if the wreckage was that of their lost loved one.

Jordan said it was a frightened school of fish that first led his dive team to uncover the rare aircraft, which has lain undetected on the ocean floor for decades.

“When you look at it, it’s just a stunning site.”

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was a two-seat dive bomber initially introduced into combat in 1943. More than 7,000 SB2Cs were produced during World War II, although just one remains flying today.

View our photo gallery of the Curtiss Helldiver underwater wreckage here.

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