For its upcoming documentary The Last B-24, NOVA, produced by WGBH Boston, joined the U.S. Department of Defense, the Croatian Navy, and an team of underwater archeologists and technical divers as they excavated the wreckage of a WWII icon: the last B-24 ever built in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Using science to unlock the mystery, the team embarked on an expedition to determine what happened to the missing airmen… with the hope of finally bringing them home.
“Searching for missing Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country is an enormously important mission,” said Paula S. Apsell, Senior Executive Producer, NOVA. “This film shows the crucial role science plays in finding our lost heroes, telling their stories, and finally giving their families the closure they deserve.”
In December 1944, an American B-24 Liberator bomber known as the Tulsamerican was badly damaged during a fight with the German Air Force, commonly known as the Luftwaffe, over enemy territory. The crew attempted an emergency landing, but crashed into the waters off what is now the Croatian island of Vis.
Seven decades later, the Tulsamerican was discovered by amateur divers, nearly 135 feet beneath surface at the bottom of the sea. The aircraft was almost unrecognizable—broken in half and covered in rust and silt. Serial numbers revealed the plane’s identity. A specialized group within the Pentagon was alerted: The U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
Led by Director Kelly McKeague, the agency is tasked with searching for and identifying the estimated 82,000 missing American service members still unaccounted for and bringing them home to give closure to their families.
The DPAA quickly formed an expedition team, including scientists led by world-renowned underwater archeologist Brendan Foley, and some of the world’s best technical divers handpicked by divemaster Phil Short. With more than 40 people and 15 tons of equipment, both military and scientific, the search began.
A NOVA production by Lone Wolf Media for WGBH Boston, The Last B-24 was written, directed, and produced by Kirk Wolfinger. The special will air November 8 on PBS.