The Army Corps of Engineers has cleared about 60 acres of land and began surveying the location around Cape Poge on Martha’s Vineyard for munitions and undetonated ordnance over the last three years.
Little Neck — a barren, sandy finger of Chappaquiddick’s eastern shore, according to the Vineyard Gazette — was used as a Navy practice bombing site during and after World War II.
But the recovery of a five-foot propeller and a .30 caliber machine gun in the waters off Chappaquiddick led researchers to think they have discovered a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver that crashed in 1946.
According to the Gazette, an expert at Quonset Naval Air Station identified the fragments as part of the Helldiver, a carrier-based bomber notorious for its difficult handling.
But researchers had to turn to old newspaper accounts to determine when the crash may have occurred — Feb. 22, 1946 — and the potential identity of the pilots: Ensign Cecil M. Richards and Aviation Radioman 2nd Class William Robert Garrett. While the two sailors have gravestones, it’s unknown if their remains are interred at the sites.
The Corps of Engineers plan to recover the plane with a 30-foot barge with a crane, but it’s yet to be determined if there was live ammunition on the plane or if it still holds any human remains.
“We don’t know what’s in the plane. We don’t know whether the machine guns were outfitted with active rounds. There’ll be a lot more we know at the end of this project than we know now,” Chris Kennedy, the stewardship manager for the group that owns most of Cape Poge, told the Gazette.