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The 'Maid of Harlech' The “Maid of Harlech”. Photo © Joseph Mearman, SCSEE, Bangor University

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WW2 US Fighter Wreck in Wales Gains Protected Status

The P-38, which crash landed on a beach near Harlech in 1942, has been scheduled by Cadw, which means it is the first legally designated military aircraft crash site protected for its historic and archaeological interest in the UK

Published on November 12, 2019

An American World War Two fighter plane which crash landed in 1942 near Harlech, North Wales, has been given protected status for its historic and archaelogical importance by Cadw, the Welsh Government's historic environment service.

The P-38, which has since been nicknamed the 'Maid of Harlech', came down off the coast of North Wales in September 1942. Its pilot was 2nd Lt Robert F. Elliott from North Carolina, who was flying the aircraft on a gunnery practice mission from the nearby airfield at Llanbedr. After experiencing difficulties, the plane came down on a beach near Harlech. 2nd Lt Elliott was unhurt, although he was reported Missing in Action just months later during a mission in Tunisia. As beaches were off limits to the press and public during the Second World War, the wreck remained untouched for years. Now buried 2m beneath the sands, it's one of the best preserved aircraft crash sites in Wales. It has been uncovered from the sands several times in recent years, being sighted in the 1970s, 2007 and most recently in 2014.

Cadw, the Welsh Government organization which protects historical environments in the country, has now scheduled the crash site, making the site the first legally protected military aircraft crash site in the UK. Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis Thomas, explained that "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. As we have seen following Remembrance events over the weekend, sites such as this represent events which must not be forgotten, Wales will always remember and respect all those who contributed to securing the peace we are so fortunate to enjoy today."

The protection is particularly meaningful to the nephew of 2nd Lt Robert F. Elliott, who is also named Robert Elliott. Discussing the scheduling of the crash site, Elliott, who lives in Tennessee and is a retired US Navy veteran and a member of the 49th Fighter Squadron Association, said "I am honored and delighted that Cadw has given official recognition of my uncle's P38F as a scheduled Ancient Monument. My uncle was among those brave and expert fighter pilots who served with distinction during WWII. My visit to the site with my wife Cathy in 2016 was very moving and emotional. The 49th Fighter Squadron, to which this aircraft was assigned, has a rich and storied history dating back to 1941 and is still active today as the 49th Fighter Training Squadron. I look forward to returning to Wales and offer my support of this historic designation."

Aviation expert Matt Rimmer, who is local to the area, has been one of those individuals calling for the protection and preservation of military aircraft crash sites. "I been an advocate for the preservation of historic military aircraft crash sites in Wales for over twenty years", he said. "I'm thrilled to see the Harlech P-38 scheduled as an historic monument by Cadw, as I feel it not only acknowledges the significance of this particular aircraft in a historical context, but also the important role played by Wales in the air war against Nazi Germany and the thousands of aircrew from many countries who trained here, many of whom lost their lives either in accidents during training or subsequently in combat."

For more information on Cadw and their work protecting historical sites like the American fighter, check out cadw.gov.wales, and keep an eye on The American's website as we cover more details on this fascinating piece of American history in Wales.

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