The World War II-era B-24 aircraft was so stiff, heavy, and hard to control that its American crews dubbed it the "flying coffin." Not only was its only exit hard to reach at the tail—leaving many trapped before being able to parachute out—but it was intended to drop bombs on bridges, train stations, and airports run by the Germans, thus living up to its name for those below it as well. And now, 70 years after one flight met its end in a crash outside a town in Italy, locals have found the wreckage and historians have pieced together the puzzle of the aircraft's final flight, reports Discovery.
It turns out the fragments found in Selva del Lamone belonged to a B-24H from the Air Force's 736th Bomb Squadron, which operated out of southern Italy. It had taken off in March 1944 with 276 other bombers and was part of an 18-bomber formation that dropped 25 tons of bombs on an airport. But "weather conditions and clouds prevented accurate bombing," says a historian. "Only half of the bombers actually dropped their loads." When Germans attacked the B-24H, the Week reports, only two sergeants managed to parachute out, though both ended up in German prison camps. A grisly crash scene greeted Italian villagers, says the historian: "Carbonized bodies were scattered around the wreckage, a body was hanging from a tree with his parachute." The wreckage fragments are set to go on display by year's end. (Unsuspecting road construction, meanwhile, recently led to the discovery of WWII graffiti on ancient artifacts in Israel.)