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Salvors/scientists battle at Normandy

Jan 1, 2003

A race to establish ownership of sunken artifacts is underway between archeologists and salvage divers off the coast of Normandy. The D-Day site is littered with thousands of pieces of sunken machinery that never made it ashore on June 6, 1944, including tanks, Higgins boats, weapons, trucks, and assorted WW II-vintage gear, that is being simultaneously salvaged and preserved. Divers are bringing wreckage to the surface as archeologists are appealing to the French and U.S. governments for sovereignty over the site.

An U.S.-led team of scientists from Texas University surveyed the site off France this past summer. The team is attempting to stop salvors from England and France from removing equipment from what they describe as an unprotected war grave. "These are the war graves from the largest naval action, and probably the most significant, in the history of the world, yet they have no protection. A lot of men are in tanks and landing ships that never made it to shore, and these sites should be as every bit as hallowed as the grounds of the military cemeteries on the cliffs above," Brett Phaneuf, a professor at the university, told the London newspaper The Independent. No laws currently prohibit removal of sunken artifacts in this area.