Remains of Heroic US WWII captain found in Vanuatu
US military begin dive operation in Vanuatu to recover remains of World War II Captain.
A team of more than 20 United States military personnel has started an operation to recover the remains of a sailor trapped in a sunken ship off Vanuatu since the Second World War.
Captain Elwood Joseph Euart of the US Army Field Artillery is believed to be entombed inside the the troopship, SS President Coolidge, which ran into mines at the harbour in Espiritu Santo in October 1942.
The ship hit the reef and eventually sank to a depth of about 52 metres.
Malcolm Davies of Santo Dive, who is assisting the recovery team, told Koroi Hawkins the Americans will be in Luganville for at least two weeks.
MALCOLM DAVIES: The President Coolidge is an ex-luxury liner which was commandeered during the second world war for troop transport. They were transporting marines to Vanuatu and then staging them on to the Solomon Islands for Guadalcanal. When the Coolidge arrived in the passage at Santo it unfortunately hit a couple of mines that were placed for protection of the waters and was beached and subsequently sank. It had 5,334 people on board who were all evacuated with the exception of two. One man was killed in the engine room and a Captain Euart who was a marine captain not a naval captain went back to assist removing people from the infirmary who couldn't get off the ship. He unfortunately died after saving the people there. The remains have been on the ship ever since and approximately two years ago what we believe is his remains were found. It was reported to the American authorities in Hawaii and they have now mounted a mission to come and attempt to recover what they believe to be his remains. The mission is scheduled around a period of two weeks, they have an excess of 20 divers here in order to recover the remains along with forensic specialists and anthropologists. And they are at the moment vacuum dredging the area where the remains are believed to be.
KOROI HAWKINS: And what kind of depth is this vessel in? Like how hard is it for this team to actually get them out?
MD: The remains are in approximately 50 metres of water, the divers that are here doing this are specialty salvage divers. They are diving in hardhat with surface supply air and boat to diver telecommunications. They have a large barge above the wreck and they are diving directly from that barge down and excavating the remains by method of a vacuum dredge.
KH: It sounds like quite a big operation is this the largest of this kind that you have seen?
MD: This is the first time that I am aware off for the JPAC group [now the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency DPAA] to recover underwater remains. But they have over the last years had four or five missions here where they have recovered the remains of US fighter pilots and aircraft crew.
KH: And do you know what is going to be done with the remains are they taking it back to is there are war memorial or something that they are going to be taking the remains back to?
MD: So the remains will be repatriated from Santo at the time when they are done. And they will leave in a coffin with full military honors onto the plane and be returned to Hawaii where they will be identified.
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