In 1945, a pilot vanished when he crashed his plane in the Chesapeake. Now, the Navy might have found it.


On March 18, 1945, Lt. j.g. David L. Mandt took off from Maryland’s Patuxent River Naval Air Station to test out the guns on an experimental fighter plane, the XF8F-1 Bearcat.

It was the first of its kind, a propeller-driven hot rod with a 2,100-horsepower engine. In photographs, it appeared with the word “TEST” emblazoned on its side.

Long story short, his plane never returned and neither did he.

But volunteer group of underwater archaeologists said he had gotten the sonar “hit” at a spot east of the air station during a routine survey. The archaeologist was now going 80 feet down from a dive boat to investigate.

Expert Diver Dan Lynberg could tell it was a single-engine airplane, compact and rugged-looking.

On later dives with the Navy, he said, researchers noted the shape of the air intakes in the wings, the spacing from the machine guns and the location of a gun camera lens was “a perfect match for a Bearcat.”

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