World War II sailors recovered in Palau will be honored today in a special ceremony in Malakal Harbor, Koror.

A flyover of F-35 aircrafts over Malakal Harbor this morning salutes the special ceremony for the U.S. Navy aircrew of the TBM1c Avenger aircraft who died in combat in 1944 during WWII.

They are Navy Aviation Ordnance man 1st Class Anthony Di Petta and Navy Aviation Radioman 1st Class Wilbur Archie Mitts. The third member is still MIA.

The remains of Anthony Di Petta, a U.S. Navy Aviation Ordnanceman First Class A was sent home in March and will be buried in Wrightstown, New Jersey today, July 11, 2023. 

In 1944, Di Petta was the Aviation Ordnance man assigned to the Navy Torpedo Squadron 20, USS Enterprise. On Sept. 10, Di Petta and two other crew members were aboard the TBM-1C Avenger Bureau Number, 17018 took off from the USS Enterprise on a mission to conduct air strikes against enemy targets in Malakal Naval District, Palau Islands.

Their aircraft was struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire and crashed into water near Malakal. Efforts to recover Di Petta’s remains were unsuccessful,” the press release said. 

Di Petta’s remains were recovered through the efforts of the BentProp Project now known as Project Recover, and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) which, for almost a decade conducted six investigations resulted in the location of a site associated with the incident.

Project Recover is a group of volunteers that look for the wreckage of warplanes and the missing American soldiers.

In May 2019, Ships of Exploration and Discovery Research, a DPAA partner organization excavated the site and recovered remains and material evidence.

In Sept. 2021, a subsequent excavation was completed by Project Recover. 

Remains and material evidence were sent to the DPAA laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, for analysis.

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