The wreck of a US fighter plane that crashed off the coast of Wales in World War II should be around for years to come thanks to new protections. The site of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning has been given protected status by the Welsh historic environment service, Cadw. It's the "first legally designated military aircraft crash site protected for its historic and archaeological interest in the UK," reports Fox News. The plane, dubbed the "Maid of Harlech," normally sits beneath six feet of water but has surfaced at least three times since it was ditched off the coast of Harlech in north Wales in September 1942. The 24-year-old pilot, 2nd Lt. Robert F. Elliot of North Carolina, survived the crash during a training mission but was reported missing in action months later.
"Technically it shouldn't have survived in the condition it is in given the environment, but it has," local historian Matt Rimmer told Wales Online last year, describing the plane as one of only five remaining early P-38s, and the only one to see action in Europe during the war. Previously covered by the Protection of Military Remains Act, the site will now enjoy the same protections applied to some castles and abbeys, per the Guardian. "This site is of international significance and I'm delighted that this designation underlines its special qualities as well as protecting it for the benefit of future generations," says Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the UK's deputy minister for culture, sport, and tourism. The plane most recently emerged from sand in 2014, two years before Elliot's nephew paid an "emotional" visit. (Read more Wales stories.)