After 52 Years, Lost B-24 Bomber Found on South China Mountain

MAO'ER MOUNTAIN, China -- South China's tallest mountain, covered with bamboo and mist, keeps its secrets. For 52 years, it concealed the crash of a U.S. bomber. Its perils even surprised those sent to retrieve the missing airmen's remains.

A team from the U.S. POW/MIA Office, led by Chinese officials and accompanied by reporters, climbed wet rock and mud walls, edged along narrow ledges and scrambled for handholds of bamboo and vines to reach the crash site Tuesday.

There they found, scattered in the crags and trees of a steep ravine beneath Mao'er Mountain, the debris of the B-24 bomber, lost Aug. 31, 1944.

"This rates as the most difficult kind of site we have had to do in the world," said Alan Liotta, deputy director of the POW/MIA Office and a member of the team. The office is responsible for tracking down U.S. servicemen missing in action.

During World War II, the United States poured aid and bombers into China to help fight Japan. The lost B-24 had just flown from over the "Hump" -- the 4,500-meter mountains of the Himalayas -- with bombs taken aboard in India.

The B-24 was returning to a South China base Aug. 31, 1944, from bombing Japanese shipping near Taiwan. Flying in darkness and probably bad weather, it slammed into the 2,142-meter mountain.

Today few people venture near Mao'er, or Kitten, Mountain, home to bears, wild boars and, in summer, leeches and poisonous snakes.

The U.S. team went to examine what the Chinese had found and to see what else remained at the site. The Americans found the partial remains of one person, but little else.

The U.S. side has not decided whether it will go back to the mountain to look more, Liotta said.

The youngest of the B-24's crew was 19, the oldest 27. One, Anthony DeLucia, died on his 24th birthday.

When his brother Elmer DeLucia of Bradford, Pennsylvania, heard the news of the crash discovery, he said he was "shaking like a leaf. I was overjoyed to know at least he was found and we knew what happened."

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