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Cape May fisherman retrieves WWII-era aircraft engine from ocean

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CAPE MAY — A local commercial fisherman was out on the water recently when he recovered a World War II-era aircraft engine from the depths of the ocean.

Randy Camp was on the Susan L with his captain Jake Wiscott fishing for squid two weeks ago when they felt something heavy come into their net.

Camp said he had a good idea of what he was looking at when they first discovered it, having served for six years as a member of the U.S. National Guard 253rd Transportation Company of Cape May.

He used to work in marine construction and previously helped the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum with construction, so he knew right away whom to contact.

The museum confirmed what Camp had found was a Pratt & Whitney 18-cylinder R2800 engine used on quite a few different aircraft, including the Northrop P-61 Black Widow fighter and commercial airplanes like the Douglas DC-6, according to the curator of the museum, William LaSalle.

It also was used in the Grumman F6F Hellcat, which the museum has on display.

Joseph Salvatore, founder of the Naval Air Station Wildwood museum in Lower Township, is planning to put the engine on display next summer on a stand with a plaque with Camp’s name engraved on it.

There are seashells and seaweed covering the engine, so it needs to be cleaned and aired out first.

“It’s been underwater for 70 years,” Salvatore said.

Throughout the years, Salvatore has seen plenty of artifacts brought into the museum by fishermen, including anchors, military ammunition and cannonballs from the Civil War. Before Camp’s discovery, one other engine was found and donated to the museum 10 years ago by Lund’s Fisheries.

“It’s a nice thing that when they find something they call us, because they know it will be taken care of,” Salvatore said.

Camp said he finds a lot of interesting discoveries while fishing, and usually collects the things he finds, from rocks to bones. He’s found military shells in the ocean before, but nothing like the engine, he said.

“I wanted to keep it. I thought it was awesome, everyone was really excited,” Camp said.

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