The wreckage of a Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo was recently found submerged beneath a mere 10 feet of water off the island of Midway Atoll, bringing attention to the stubby-looking airplane known as a “flying coffin” during World War II due to its notoriously poor combat record.
Federal divers stumbled upon the find last summer while cleaning up trash in the area. Based on evidence from February 1942 Marine records, officials believe the Buffalo was flown by Lt. Charles W. Somers Jr., who escaped unharmed after landing short of the runway.
Months after the incident, Marine Squadron 221 sent 20 Buffalos into the Battle of Midway, where they encountered three dozen of the much more capable Japanese Zero. The Buffalo proved all too vulnerable in the ensuing dogfights, and all but six of the initial 20 Buffalos were lost. In a stroke of luck, Lt. Somers had been transferred off the island prior to the battle. He went on to survive the war and lived until 1992.
Although more than 500 were built, today there remains just one complete Buffalo in the world. Officials have not decided whether or not any remnants of the recently found airplane will be brought to the surface.