An American fighter plane which crashed during the Second World War has recently been scheduled by Cadw, making it the first legally designated military aircraft crash site protected for its historic and archaeological interest in the UK.

First published:
11 November 2019
Last updated:
‘Harlech P-38’ scheduled for its historic importance and future protection

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The Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft crashed off the north Wales coast in September 1942 and is the best preserved military aircraft crash site in Wales. Buried around 2m below the sands it has been uncovered three times since it crashed - the first sighting being in the 1970s, in 2007 and most recently in 2014.

The pilot at the time of the incident was Second Lt. Robert F. Elliott, 24, of Rich Square, North Carolina, who flew from Llanbedr on a gunnery practice mission and encountered difficulties - resulting in the crash-landing. The pilot walked away safely from the incident, but was reported missing in action a few months later.

Nephew of the pilot, Robert Elliott today lives in Kingsport, Tennessee and is a retired US Navy and a member of the 49th Fighter Squadron Association. He visited the site in 2016. He 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.

Local aviation historian, Matt Rimmer, said;

I been an advocate for the preservation of historic military aircraft crash sites in Wales for over twenty years 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.

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis Thomas, said:

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.