NASSAU, BAHAMAS — On October 17, 1944, five years into World War II, a B-26 Marauder aircraft assigned to the Royal Air Force Transport Command took off from the Windsor Field airport on New Providence in a training exercise.
The bomber crashed in shallow waters approximately 400 yards off the north coast of New Providence near Cable Beach. Eric Wiberg — a Bahamian resident, maritime lawyer and historian — has dedicated over 35 years to the study of The Bahamas in World War II and sought to locate the site of this 1944 crash.
In November 2021, equipped with only snorkel gear and an inflatable raft, Wiberg was able to identify the mangled aircraft from pieces of metal protruding from beneath the sand.
The recovery of the WWII bomber brings light to the history of The Bahamas in global conflict and geopolitics, an area of Bahamian history that is often forgotten, underappreciated or little understood.
Artifacts recovered and identified from the bomber include parts of the fuselage, engine props and cowling, a cockpit seat and ejection hatch, camera, landing gear, instrument panel gauge, bomb cradle, four-bladed propeller, machine gun and ammunition.
The B-26 Marauder aircraft, also known as Marauder III, was used extensively during WWII as a high-speed medium bomber and for general exploration. Many pilots were not accustomed to take-off and landing at such high speeds and required specialized training. The high incidence of crashes during landing and take-off resulted in the aircraft being nicknamed the “widow-maker”.
During World War II, The Bahamas played a critical role as a training ground for Allied forces and as a transshipment point for military aircraft and ammunition.
As Wiberg details in his book, “Bahamas in World War II”, more than 25 percent of the New Providence population between 1939 and 1945 were RAF members and other Allied personnel.
Wiberg donated the recovered artifacts, along with a copy of his book, to the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Corporation (AMMC) — the government agency mandated to restore, maintain and preserve historical heritage throughout The Bahamas.
The donation was gratefully received by Dr Christopher Curry, director of the AMMC.
Wiberg is partnering with the AMMC to preserve the relics of the WWII bomber, the memory of the deceased pilots and the history of the global conflict that impacted The Bahamas in so many ways.
He is the author of over 20 books and more than 100 articles on maritime history. Through continued publication, documentaries and exhibits, Wiberg hopes to bring about a revival in the understanding of WWII history and The Bahamas’ pivotal role on, under and above the water.
The AMMC’S Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation and Balcony House reopens today after a two-year pandemic closure.