The Dangerous Undersea Search for Missing Military Heroes
From the English Channel to the Pacific, one band of volunteer divers look for the remains of American M.I.A.s. I joined and discovered this mission can be perilous — even deadly.
Header courtesy U.S. Navy/Christopher Perez | Edited by Brendan Spiegel
Three summers ago, I stood on the fantail of a 33-foot fishing boat in the English Channel trying to figure out what to grab onto to stay upright. Low-slung clouds blanketed the coastline of St. Margaret’s Bay in front of us: flat shingle beaches at the foot of the chalky cliffs of Dover, crowned to the east by the pointed Dover Patrol Monument, an obelisk dedicated to Royal Navy sailors who died during the First World War.
“Oh, that looks like a fish, there,” said Marc Coucher, captain of the Christabel, whose name comes from an unfinished poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The captain pointed to a quarter-inch white blob wriggling across the sonar display we were all leaning in to see. Coucher, a local fisherman with a Kentish accent that was nearly unintelligible to me, was just getting accustomed to his newest cohort of passengers, which included me and three other U.S. Navy reservists. We weren’t looking for fish.
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