Remains are lost in race for relics





Brisk trade in WWII planes thwarts efforts to recover missing fliers.

To the US military, Carter Lutes, a pilot who vanished in Papua New Guinea in April 1944, is one of the lost heroes of World War II. The Pentagon still hopes to recover him. Until then, it considers his jungle crash site a sacred place - and the last known clue to finding him.

Yet while the military was making plans to search for Lutes's remains, other visitors arrived on the site seeking different remains: Lutes's aircraft - a P-47D Thunderbolt, a highly sought-after model in the booming market for authentic World War II planes.

Driven largely by wealthy American collectors, interest in such "warbirds" has grown into a multimillion-dollar frenzy that rivals the most feverish art trend or real estate boom, according to interviews with dozens of collectors, aircraft restorers, museum curators, and government officials.



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