Aviation Cultures Spotlight Digging Up Aviation: Aviation Archaeology

Digging Up Aviation: Aviation Archaeology

On Saturday, 14 August 2021, at 10:15 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) the Aviation Cultures team presented the first of a series of Spotlight online events. On the weekend of the 76th anniversary of the announcement of Japan’s surrender during the Second World War, a panel of three aviation archaeologists discussed sites relating to air power in the Pacific theatre of that conflict, followed by moderated panel discussions. This was an opportunity for a wider discussion of aviation archaeology, the study of human flight in the atmosphere through the investigation of the material remains associated with the act of flying. This field of archaeological inquiry includes the investigations of remains that can include buildings and structures, airfields, aircraft wreckage and parts, and other indirect resources, such as radar sites and anti-aircraft gun positions.

Daniel J. Leahy, Australia’s Second World War Airfields

Almost from the outset of the Second World War, Australian air power was primarily utilised to train personnel under the Empire Air Training Scheme, for service with Royal Air Force units in Europe and later North Africa. A system of airfields was developed across Australia to cater for the influx of aircrew trainees. Soon after Japan’s entry into the Second World War in December 1941, airfields were constructed across Australia’s north for both offensive and defensive purposes. This presentation will look at some of these sites and examine how these airfields changed as Australia’s strategic position evolved throughout the conflict.

Daniel J. Leahy is a PhD candidate at the University of New England (UNE) investigating the archaeology of Second World War air power in Australia. He has had an interest in wartime aviation particularly of that used in the South West Pacific for over 20 years and has visited numerous aircraft wrecks and air power infrastructure sites in Australia and Papua New Guinea during that time. In 2017 Daniel completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in both Archaeology and History at UNE, and in 2018 he was awarded First Class Honours for his project investigating the archaeology of airfields utilised by schools of the Empire Air Training Scheme during the Second World War.

Contacts: Twitter; Academia.edu; LinkedIn.

Silvano Jung, The Loss of B-25 Mitchell N5-156

North American B-25 Mitchell bombers operated by No. 18 (Netherlands East Indies) Squadron operated from airfields in Australia’s Northern Territory from January 1943. On the evening of 21 October 1943, one of these aircraft – serial number N5-156 – was being flown on a night-time training exercise. During this flight, the aircraft caught fire and crashed south east of Darwin. All but one of those on board survived the incident. This presentation will cover the historical details surrounding the loss of the aircraft and the results of archaeological surveys recently conducted at the wreck site.

Dr Silvano Jung is an archaeologist currently based in Darwin. In 2001 he completed a Master of Arts (MA) degree at Charles Darwin University (CDU) with his project, ‘Wings beneath the sea: the aviation archaeology of Catalina flying boats in Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory’ and in 2008 completed his PhD at CDU with his thesis, ‘Australia’s undersea aerial armada: the aviation archaeology of World War II flying boat wrecks lying in Roebuck Bay, Broome, Western Australia’. Silvano has written extensively on the Second World War flying boat wrecks at Darwin and Broome.

Contacts: Academia.edu; LinkedIn.

Megan Lickliter-Mundon, A B-29 Superfortress Wreck in the Saipan Channel

American B-29 Superfortress aircraft flew missions against Japan from air bases in the Marianas Islands near the end of WWII. Combat damage or technical failures forced many B-29s into the ocean surrounding Saipan and Tinian, but no losses in deep water were discovered until 2016, when a NOAA exploration cruise investigated sonar targets in the Saipan Channel. Disarticulated wreckage from a B-29 was located at 370m over a large area. Telepresence enabled exploration from NOAA’s ship Okeanos Explorer allowed scientists on shore to view live streaming video and to work collaboratively to guide the investigation. Experts in aviation archaeology, corrosion studies, WWII history, forensic studies, marine biology, and oceanography participated in the survey using an ROV, highlighting components which could lead to possible identification of the B-29 in situ, and conducting an environmental characterization of the site. This presentation will discuss the survey, results, and post-processing products.

Dr Megan Lickliter-Mundon is an archaeologist and museum professional with a broad range of experience in the heritage sector. She received an MSc in Archaeology from Edinburgh University and a PhD in Anthropology from the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University, specializing in underwater aviation archaeology. She also holds graduate certificates in heritage preservation, metal artefact conservation, and has specialised in museum studies for over 20 years. During the course of her archaeological career, Megan has directed or participated in terrestrial and historical underwater projects in Europe, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. She has been involved in both dive surveys and ROV/AUV deepwater surveys with NOAA, OET, Air/Sea Heritage Foundation and Vulcan-R/V Petrel. Prior to returning to graduate studies for her PhD she was the director of a local aviation history museum housed in a historic air terminal. She volunteers for and has served on the board of several non-profit museum organizations and is dedicated to museum development. Megan’s interest areas involve diver-integrated ROV wreck site survey, site mapping and photomosaic rendering, aluminium conservation research and experimentation, and 3D laser scanning of heritage objects.

Contacts: Twitter; Academia.edu; LinkedIn.