It‘s been more than 70 years since the Second World War ended. However, traces of the biggest humanity‘s conflict can still be discovered. Just recently a Bell P-39 Airacobra fighter has been retrieved from the Lake Shukozero in Russia and a year ago a couple of Sherman tanks have been recovered from the bottom of the sea almost in the same place.

Bell P-39 Airacobra was mid-engined and therefore required a long shaft to spin its propeller. (US government, Wikimedia)

Bell P-39 Airacobra is a peculiar airplane. It took off for its amiden flight back in 1938 and entered service in 1941. It featured one unusual construction solution – its engine was mounted behind the pilot, which meant that a long shaft was required to spin a traction propeller. However, it was a good fighter plane – it is often said that together with P-63 Kingcobra, the P-39 was one of the most successful fixed-wing aircraft manufactured by Bell. But it did have one issue – its engine was not turbocharged or supercharged.

It is likely that the plane will go to the museum as is – it is just more authentic that way. (Минобороны России)

It meant that it could not operate at high altitude very well and therefore RAF did not want it. Meanwhile soviets took it gladly – 4,746 P-39s Airacobras were sent to Soviet Union to aid its efforts of fighting Nazi Germany. However, this one did not fall into a lake because of some intensive fighting – this accident occurred on a training mission.

As it was said, Fyodor Varavik lost control of his airplane and crashed into Shukozero Lake in northern Russia. Since it was March of 1945, lake was covered with ice so it could’ve been that Varavik performed emergency landing, but at the result is clear – P-39 Airacobra sunk to the depth of 45 metres. Recently this plane has been discovered and Russian Navy personnel assigned to the Northern Fleet organized the recovery operation.

Divers reached the plane, but no human remains were found – only a boot of the pilot was inside of the plane, together with 37 mm ammunition and oxygen tanks. Bell P-39 Airacobra was retrieved and now will find its way in a museum. Very likely, it will not be restored – it will remain authentic with its own story.

Plane was found in a lake in Murmansk region. Not too far away last year Russian Navy recovered a couple of American Sherman tanks. They went down with the SS Thomas Donaldson ship, when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat.  Tanks were also meant to help Soviet Union – in total 4,102 M4 Sherman medium tanks were sent to the Eastern Front. Interestingly, despite spending 71 years in salty water, tanks were in decently good condition. Some say it is because they were packed very good and could resist water damage for some time.

People love stories about tanks and planes sunken to the bottom of the sea and later discovered by some enthusiasts. But the truth is that most of it is just some legends and myths that are completely made up or got distorted through the years of going from one person to another. However, it is very satisfying to see these gracious machines emerge from their watery grave, because some more years and nature will claim what is hers. Soon all of the lost WW2 weapons will simply be rotten away.


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