Two men prospecting for gold in the hills of the eastern Oregon desert made a somber discovery: human bones and artifacts amid the wreckage of a World War II bomber.
Charred pieces of a skull, vertebrae, fingers, legs and hips were found at the remote site where a B-24 Liberator bomber went down March 2, 1945, said Sonja Whittington, spokeswoman for Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.
Authorities at the time brought out most of the remains of the plane's crew of nine from the crash site, a ridge in the Pueblo Mountains near the Nevada border.
In early July, prospectors Dan Anderson and Lenny Keith Kollas found the fire-blackened bones, a pocket watch, wristwatch, pliers, dogtags, belt buckles and other items, then notified police.
The Army has sent a team of soldiers and an anthropologist to remove whatever remains may be left.
Little is left of the plane except four badly damaged 1,200-horsepower Pratt & Whitney engines, scattered wiring and aluminum. The fuselage, tail and 110-foot wings are gone, either destroyed in the crash or carried away by scavengers, Whittington said.
Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup said the weekly Burns Times-Herald on March 9, 1945, told the story of the bomber going down seven days earlier. The article said people in the area heard a crash followed by two explosions.
A list of the crew members has been found but won't be released until the remains are removed.
Between 1941 and the end of the war, 18,188 B-24 bombers were built. The Liberator carried a crew of 10 for combat operations, had a top speed of 290 mph and a range of 2,100 miles with an 8,800-pound bomb load.