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Squadron of Lost WWII Spitfires To Be Exhumed In Burma 142

Posted by timothy
from the but-they're-out-of-date dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt that sounds like a good Neal Stephenson plot point: "Like a treasure chest stuffed with priceless booty, as many as 20 World War II-era Spitfire planes are perfectly preserved, buried in crates beneath Burma — and after 67 years underground, they're set to be uncovered. The planes were shipped in standard fashion in 1945 from their manufacturer in England to the Far East country: waxed, wrapped in greased paper and tarred to protect against the elements. They were then buried in the crates they were shipped in, rather than let them fall into enemy hands, said David Cundall, an aviation enthusiast who has spent 15 years and about $200,000 in his efforts to reveal the lost planes."
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Squadron of Lost WWII Spitfires To Be Exhumed In Burma

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  • Re: It's not Fox (Score:5, Informative)

    by qubezz (520511) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @06:22AM (#39830927)

    It is sad when submitters don't check for the best sources.

    Fox news copied their story from The Syndey Morning Herald [smh.com.au], who copied the story from The Telegraph (UK) [telegraph.co.uk] (April 14). There is a follow up story [telegraph.co.uk] on the Telegraph site too; the buried spitfire story was revealed by a war vet, and they found them and made bore holes and looked inside the crates.

  • Re:Fox news? Really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by 517714 (762276) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @06:31AM (#39830949)
    If you RTFA you would have seen that the original source was the Sydney Morning Herald, to which Fox dutifully provided a link, and which provided additional information. Fox managed to report the news without contradicting the original source or adding its own speculation, something few American media (I hesitate to use 'news') sources seem to be capable of these days.
  • Re:Preserved Junk? (Score:5, Informative)

    by peragrin (659227) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @06:32AM (#39830951)

    They were covered in tar and grease and crated.

    The region they were found in has mostly dry soil.

    while I doubt all of them will fly I wouldn't be surprised if they can't get 6-12 of the 70 they found flying.

  • Re:erection (Score:4, Informative)

    by bamf (212) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @06:57AM (#39831017)
  • by JockTroll (996521) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @07:07AM (#39831043)

    Like, landmines and nerve gas.

    Nerve gas has a very short shelf life. Explosives deteriorate as well, especially detonators. That's why some war is always needed to use them up before they expire. Fortunately, it has been found that modern conflict use ammo at ungodly levels so our shelves are always stocked with fresh, shiny bottles o'boom.

  • Re:erection (Score:5, Informative)

    by fnj (64210) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @10:11AM (#39831579)

    The Lancaster had FOUR Merlins!

    From the ground [youtube.com]

    From inside [youtube.com]

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @10:52AM (#39831759)

    No one, but no one, with any sense would argue that any of those US planes was a better dogfighter. Hellcats, Wildcats and Corsairs (and don't forget Lightnings and Mustangs) almost never shot down Zeros in dogfights. They used tactics to avoid trying to turn with Zeros, because they knew they would die trying that. Most of the victories came after Japan's experienced pilot cadre had their heart cut out.

    So, you're defining "dogfight" as a two-dimensional duel between two vehicles moving in three dimensions?

    As opposed to, say, four vehicles operating in pairs, moving in all three dimensions?

    Zeroes started losing when the Thach Weave was developed (which essentially involved avoiding getting killed until your wingman could ruin the Zero pilot's whole day). They continued to lose for the rest of the war, since American pilots fought in pairs for the whole war.

    Note that the reason the Zero turned so well is that it had no armor, no self-sealing tanks, none of those things that enhanced your ability to survive a fight if your opponent had a clue. And that it didn't actually take all that long to get a clue. When all is said and done, the Zero was a superb fighter for fighting one-on-onje with WW-one era paper bags, but not so useful against modern planes of the era.

    Note, by the way, that saying that the USA only started winning after "Japan's experienced pilot cadre har their heart cut out" ignores the fact that the only way to "cut the heart out" of an "experienced pilot cadre" is to shoot them down in job lots. Which we were doing pretty much constantly after Midway.

    Note that even as early as Guadalcanal, Wildcats (by no means a first-line fighter) were capable of engaging a larger number of zeroes and winning.

  • Re:Preserved Junk? (Score:5, Informative)

    by speederaser (473477) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @12:42PM (#39832333)

    They were covered in tar and grease and crated.

    The region they were found in has mostly dry soil.

    while I doubt all of them will fly I wouldn't be surprised if they can't get 6-12 of the 70 they found flying.

    In 1957 they put a brand new unprotected 1957 Plymouth Belvedere into an underground concrete time capsule and 50 years later in 2007 unearthed it:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19249855/ns/us_news-life/t/auto-time-capsule-unearthed-after-years/ [msn.com]

    It was a horrid sight but I imagine a no-expenses-spared frame-up restoration could recover that car. If an unprotected car comes out good enough to be restored I imagine a protected aircraft might come out in better shape even though its been 65 years.

    I can't wait to see them unearthed.

  • Despite the Rarity, (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @12:48PM (#39832373) Homepage Journal

    I think it a bit of pity that these are 1945 Spits, with Gryphon engines and the modified airframes.

    If you care to see what these XIVs might look like, see this:
    http://www.spitfireperformance.com/spit14v109.html [spitfireperformance.com]

    The XIV marque - like other Gryphon Spits - had an elongated cowl, which interrupted the series of broad, elliptical shapes that made up a Spitfire, and gave it an extraordinary, sculptural quality.

    Additionally, there was an enormous , five-bladed airscrew, behind a pointier spinner. The tiny cross section where the fuselage tapers toward the tali was "beefed up" and a much broader and taller tail/rudder structure again, change the elegant line of the aircraft. I suppose, as late as these models are, that Burma mk XIV's also have... Horror! The cut-down and bubble-top, instead of the more familiar hood and sloping airframe, behind the pilot.

    Even in Merlin-engined Spitfires, you begin to see the transformation hinted with the Mk VIIIs that served in Australia and Asia, with clipped wingtips and pointed tops on their rudders. But these were gentler adaptations, and lent an interesting variant on the form of the aircraft that wasn't displeasing.

    Altogether, so seriously altered, the Spitfire may well have been able to maintain itself against the equally radical adaptations made in BF109s and FW190s. However in doing so, the Spit looked more derived from Hawker's Tempest fighters, albeit with a nip at the chin, and less like the supple, equine aircraft that Reg Mitchell derived from Thompson Trophy racing winners of the 1930s.

  • by Weatherlawyer (2596357) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @03:17PM (#39833143) Journal

    Zeroes started losing when the Thach Weave was developed (which essentially involved avoiding getting killed until your wingman could ruin the Zero pilot's whole day). They continued to lose for the rest of the war, since American pilots fought in pairs for the whole war.

    Thatch's Weave allowed the US pilots to survive.

    The Zero had no armour, no self-sealing tanks, none of those things that enhanced your ability to survive a fight if your opponent had a clue.

    Including despite orders to wear them, paracchutes.

    They just weren't necessary.

    the Zero was a superb fighter for fighting one-on-onje but not so useful against modern planes of the era.

    Note, by the way, that saying that the USA only started winning after "Japan's experienced pilot cadre har their heart cut out" ignores the fact that the only way to "cut the heart out" of an "experienced pilot cadre" is to shoot them down in job lots. Which we were doing pretty much constantly after Midway.

    The Zero remained superior to all marques until lack of development made it a loser. They put larger air cooled engines in but by then the British had shown the Yanks how to use the Corsair. Several other new models also made an appearance at that time.

    I'd like to have seen what a zero would have performed like with a Merlin in it.

    Note that even as early as Guadalcanal, Wildcats (by no means a first-line fighter) were capable of engaging a larger number of zeroes and winning.

    The US pilots in China learned how to deal with the Japanese fighters before 1941:

    "1. Don't get involved with them.

    2. If you do get involved with them, don't get involved with them."

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @08:12PM (#39834355) Homepage Journal

    And the 3, that were common before Mk IX. The Mk VIII had four, but cam later - as the IX began with a modification of existing Vc on the production line at Castle Bromwich.

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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