WWII Research in the Pacific and Beyond

Student Divers in Saipan

ECU graduate student surveys the a reef with a metal detector in search of aircraft wreckage in Saipan (Photo by Jennifer McKinnon).

Following completion of project work, students visited one of Saipan’s Maritime Heritage Trail sites

ECU graduate student dives near the gun turret of a Japanese Kawanishi H8K “Emily” flying boat (Photo by Jennifer McKinnon).

Students are involved in a number of WWII-related historical and archaeological research projects led by Dr. McKinnon alongside her colleagues and community partners. She works on projects in Europe and in the Pacific, both in the Mariana Islands and the Republic of Palau, including developing the Battle of Saipan: WWII Maritime Heritage Trail and a more recent project on the invasion beaches at Peleliu in Palau with Ships of Exploration and Discovery Research, Inc. Sites of interest include Japanese and U.S. WWII aircraft, amphibious vehicles, and shipwrecks. McKinnon’s research on these sites is driven by a need for research-informed cultural heritage management and public and community archaeology approaches. Read more about McKinnon’s work on WWII underwater cultural heritage in the Mariana Islands. Several Master’s theses and PhDs have been and continue to be produced on sites and subjects in the Pacific.

Most recently McKinnon was trained as a Scientific Recovery Expert with the Department of Defense’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency whose mission it is to recover lost service members from previous wars. As a result she directs DPAA missions in which students have been able to travel to Europe and work in the Pacific as part of an ECU summer field school.

McKinnon also partners with a non-profit organization, Task Force Dagger, to train medically retired Special Forces veterans in underwater archaeology and integrate them into DPAA missions as part of a rehabilitative therapy program. Watch a video about the veterans programming. McKinnon also incorporates Indigenous veterans and military families local to the Mariana Islands in humanities programming related to shared experiences of war and has a keen interest in involving veterans in the history and heritage of WWII.

ECU Blog: Task Force Dagger and ECU Team Up to Explore Underwater WWII Sites


Divers hover over a wrecked Emily aircraft from the Battle of Saipan.

ECU divers check out the propeller of a wrecked aircraft in Saipan (Photo by Jennifer McKinnon).