From One Man’s Vision to Every American’s Mission

Lauren Trecosta About 5 Comments

Project Recover’s vision to bring MIAs home is a mission for every American. We are proud and privileged to have so many people joining us who are as passionate about keeping America’s promise as we are. Together we are helping to bring our MIAs home. It didn’t start that way, however. It started with one B-24 wing lying partially submerged in a mangrove swamp and one man’s vision to do the right thing.

When Pat Scannon, Project Recover founder, saw the wing lying in shallow water next to one of these islands, he recognized it immediately. He’d spent hours building model airplanes as a boy. It was a B-24.

At that moment, I forgot about the aluminum and iron of that wing and what replaced it was an overwhelming feeling that something terrible had happened at this site.”

(Pat Scannon, M.D., Ph.D., Project Recover founder, reflecting upon the day)

He bombarded his boat driver with questions. The driver gave the same answer to each. Except for knowing where it lay along the shoreline of this small coral island, he knew nothing more about the wing.

In the few steps it took to jump from the boat to the wing, Pat decided that the fate of that B24 and its aircrew would not go unanswered. 

In the split second, he was unaware of how that decision would change the trajectory of his life. He had no idea how many other lives his decision would profoundly touch, inspire, and change forever in the years to come.

Finding Something We Didn’t Know We’d Lost

There are three telltale signs of a visionary idea.

  1. The idea, the vision, or the calling is so far removed from the norm as to seem absurd to almost everybody. 
  2. The person with the calling has an unshakeable faith that it is ‘the right thing to do,’ and will pursue the calling alone rather than give it up.
  3. When a visionary idea finally gains traction and normalizes, people begin to identify with it at an ever-faster rate; finding a solution to a need they didn’t know they had.  As it picks up momentum, one man’s vision becomes a mission for every American.

MIA families — and even the greater American populous without an MIA — experience something similar when they reconnect with World War II MIAs decades after the war. 

 “The biggest thing I came away with was that every family went through the exact same thing that our family went through emotionally: the shock, the sadness, and the feelings of loss we didn’t know were there. We didn’t know what we had lost until it was found.”

(Diane Christie, cousin to 2nd Lt. Thomas V. Kelly, Jr., who is MIA)

Humanity invariably carries weight from the stark devastation of wars and conflicts. It is a weight most of us don’t know we carry or have any clue how to relieve ourselves and society of its weight.

Visionary Idea Gets Slow Start

This idea took off slowly. It was not a mission for every American in the early years. A civilian and non-government employee finding answers to questions about World War II MIAs did not generate a lot of enthusiasm. Pat spent years slogging through jungles, diving in search of crash sites, scouring the archives, and making personal connections. Teammates came and went. Finding people who shared his vision, passion, and work ethic was an evolving process.

Every American's Mission - Donate Today

Finally, Pat began to find his lasting teammates in the skydiving community. Living counter-culture lives, some adventure enthusiasts could see Pat’s vision. Like Pat, they had a  passion that took them outside the norm. Those who joined had visions themselves. They understood the camaraderie, exhilaration, as well as the diligence and precision needed to live life on the razor’s edge and were at home there.

It was not every American’s mission, but that was never the point. The point was to find answers, to help bring MIAs home, and now Pat had a dedicated team.

Repatriated MIAs Bring Americans to their Feet

The BentProp Project went through a radical transformation in 2014. After more than 30 years of searching for MIAs as a solo entity, they formed a partnership with SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware. The BentProp Project changed its name to Project Recover. 

The partnership gave Project Recover access to technology that changed their search capacity almost overnight. They went from searching a few thousand square feet each day with scuba divers to four square kilometers a day with AUVs and ROVs.

“That’s like going from riding a horse to flying a jet in terms of the extent of area we can cover.”

(Pat Scannon, M.D., Ph.D., Project Recover Founder)

From the end of 2017 through 2018, In the space of 15 months, the Project Recover team attended the funerals of four former World War II MIAs. Plus they located Heaven Can Wait, a B-24 with 11 associated MIAs as well as the USS Abner Read, a WWII destroyer sunk off Kiska Island, Alaska, with 71 MIAs.

The finds generated a lot of publicity.

But it was the long-overdue return of our MIAs and their legacy of service and sacrifice that spoke to the hearts of Americans. Nothing prepared the team for the experience attending the funerals of repatriated MIAs. People came out in droves to honor our MIAs. Men, women, and children stood in rain, choked back tears, and waved flags to celebrate the World War II hero’s return.

In a time of national division, our MIAs returned home as a unifying force. Without words, they spoke of peace and humility, kinship and gratitude. Americans responded.

Flip Colmer Speaker
Flip Colmer giving a speech about why we do it at Fisher House, Michigan. Photo: Harry Parker

A Mission for Every American

Sixteen million Americans served in the armed forces during World War II; 12% or one out of every eight people. Four hundred thousand American’s were killed; nearly 20% of whom were MIA by the war’s end. There were a million and a quarter more who served at home in the aircraft and munition factories, too.

The war touched every American then, and the service and sacrifice of those Americans move, inspire, and impact virtually every American now. 

The Project Recover team witnesses this in multiple ways. Three stand out. First, we experience family bonding and community jubilation when an MIA returns home. Second, we see the ever-growing wave of media eager to broadcast good news. Third, we witness kids of all ages participating and taking in the importance of bringing our MIAs home. (See our video below from our recent educational initiative where high school students speak about the importance of bringing our MIAs home.)

Perhaps most indicative is a surge of interest in Project Recover itself. Our January subscriber rate lept more than 500% from that of October 2019. Donations in 2019 increased by 243% from those in 2018.

Our supporters are giving us a powerful message: our mission to bring MIAs home is every American’s mission. 

We’ve responded in kind. We consider every fan, every subscriber, and every donor as a member of our mission to bring MIAs home.

Rita Alderson Capt Charles F Pratte Jr-
Rita Alderson spotlights her uncle, Capt. Charles F. Pratte, Jr.

Americans Honor Family Heroes

We value every member of our growing family. Many of our donors have given in memory of someone. To honor them, we created the Donor Spotlight Series. This offers our donors who have given to Project Recover in memory of an MIA or service member a chance to spotlight that person on our website or social media.

After only two months, so many donors have responded to our Donor Spotlight invitation, we are overwhelmed. We have to revamp our system to meet the need for people who want to honor our World War II heroes. 

Like you, we are committed. Each photo, each story is so precious to their families and our collective legacy of who we are as Americans. It is our privilege to honor them. 

Thank you for your support of Project Recover and letting us know that bringing our MIAs home is your mission, too. We hope it is every American’s mission. 

Comments 5

  1. My Uncle William Pierce’s plane (Mitchell bomber) disappeared in or near the Solomon Islands in World War II. The story is that his battalion completed its bombing mission and turned to go home, disappeared into a large cloud bank, and were never heard from again.

    Perhaps he’s been found by now?

    1. Hello Gail, it appears our historian has already emailed you with follow-up questions on Uncle William.
      We have two articles on our website that include steps you can take to learn what is known about your family’s missing relative as well as provide your own information to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

      ● How To Research Your Family’s MIA includes the first three steps you can take to get started. It includes DPAA resources, family meetings, and casualty office phone numbers.
      ○ Click here: https://www.projectrecover.org/research-your-familys-mia/

      ● Finding Heaven Can Wait; Kelly Family Shares MIA Research – The Kelly Family Shares Research reveals the steps the Kelly Family Research team took to research the possible location of the downed B-24, Heaven Can Wait. After five years of research, they turned their findings over to Project Recover which located the B-24 in October 2017.
      ○ Click here: https://www.projectrecover.org/family-shares-mia-research/

      Please let us know how we can further assist you and your family.
      Bluer Skies,
      dan

  2. I realy do wish we had such a dedicated team here in England that would dig up our Military History in the way that YOU do. Your TEAM seem to have a flare for the job, and i can only wish YOU ALL the VERY BEST in the future GOD BLESS AMERICA JIM ABBEY

  3. My cousin JOSEPH V. De Crosta who I never had the pleasure to meet but knew of him from my Aunt Clara De Crosta who at times would call me by his name in error and would tell me I reminded her of him. As I got older and myself a Air Force veteran( SAC ) became interested in finding more about his service to our country and how he was KIA. I since have found out that he was killed August 15 1944 and is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Nettuno, Italy. He was a tail gunner on a B-24, 737th Bomber Squadron, 454th Bomber Group Heavy. I was able to find a list of his crew and three of this crew was noted as KIA the pilot Uless B. Chanley, my cousin, Gunner, and Cyril G. Cammerer also a gunner. I only have one picture of his crew which my mother has and at 94 she does not have much of a memory to tell me any info she wrote on the back of the picture ” LADY in the DARK” . I would love to get more detailed info about him and his mission or anyone who might have known or associated with the crew or plan and its mission and why they were KIA. I am planning to dedicate a small plaque in his honor at the Air Force museum . Appreciate any info to help complete his story. Thank you Louis Petricone USAF 1969-1973 SAC Viet Nam Veteran FMS.

    1. Hello Louis, On behalf of all Project Recover members, we express our sympathies and gratitude as Americans for the ongoing loss of your cousin Joseph DeCrosta. We gratefully acknowledge his sacrifice in defense of our country, as well as the consequent sacrifices made by you and your family to this day.
      Our mission is specific to finding MIAs from past conflicts, so this request is a little outside of our domain. But here are some links that may assist you on your search.

      ● How To Research Your Family’s MIA includes the first three steps you can take to get started. It includes DPAA resources, family meetings, and casualty office phone numbers.
      ○ Click here: https://www.projectrecover.org/research-your-familys-mia/

      ● Finding Heaven Can Wait; Kelly Family Shares MIA Research – The Kelly Family Shares Research reveals the steps the Kelly Family Research team took to research the possible location of the downed B-24, Heaven Can Wait. After five years of research, they turned their findings over to Project Recover which located the B-24 in October 2017.
      ○ Click here: https://www.projectrecover.org/family-shares-mia-research/

      You may also consider:

      Searching for an association related to his unit that may have after-action or monthly reports already posted online.
      Searching the records of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland or the Air Force Historical Research Agency in Montgomery, Alabama, for such things as after-action reports and unit histories. Other family members around the country may be able to help with this project if they live in those areas.

      These steps may not provide all you would like to know, but they may start you on the path of at least a better understanding.

      Please let us know how we can further assist you and your family.
      Bluer Skies,
      dan

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