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Bend-based Project Recover unites another family with WWII MIA identification

Project Recover

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced that, in partnership with Bend-based Project Recover and other experts in the field, they accounted for ARM1c Wilbur A. Mitts. Mitts was a radioman on a TBM-1c Avenger who, until this announcement, was Missing in Action from World War II.

This news comes just two months after the announcement of the repatriation of Anthony Di Petta, another previously MIA member of the three-man crew.

Mitts’ Avenger took off from the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier on Sept. 10, 1944. The Navy was conducting pre-invasion strikes on Palau in preparation for the invasion of Peleliu. Mitts’ plane was last seen spinning violently at 5,000 feet and crashing into the water of Malakal Harbor.

Project Recover located and documented the downed Avenger in Palauan waters in 2015. In partnership with DPAA, Project Recover recovered MIAs from the Avenger during our first MIA Recovery Mission in 2021.

Born in Missouri, Mitts entered the Navy from California. Regional newspapers note Mitts was a welterweight boxing champion in the area, known as “Windmill” Mitts.

Locating and Recovering the Remains

Project Recover located the Grumman TBM-1c Avenger in the waters of Palau in 2015 during its third year, in partnership with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, University of Delaware.

In August 2021, Project Recover conducted its first MIA Recovery Mission, with assistance from Legion Undersea Services divers, and recovered the remains of Missing in Action service members from this site.  This endeavor marked Project Recover's first MIA recovery mission in partnership with DPAA, Scripps, UDEL and Legion Undersea Services.

The accomplishment distinguishes Project Recover as the only non-government agency capable of all aspects of MIA Recovery, including research, search, documentation, and recovery of land or marine-based crash sites. In Project Recover's article, MIA Recovery Mission in Palau, photos help to tell the story of the people, diving, archaeology, and wreckage retrieval.

For three decades, Project Recover has been working to bring closure to the families of the missing. To date, Project Recover has conducted dozens of missions in more than 20 countries to locate and document more than 200 associated MIAs. Hundreds of future missions have been identified and are executed, based on individual and organizational support. Find out more about Project Recover and supporting a mission.

Article Topic Follows: War-Military

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