YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar has signed a deal with a British aviation enthusiast to allow the excavation of a World War II treasure: dozens of Spitfire fighter planes buried by the British more than 67 years ago.
David J. Cundall, 62, discovered the locations of the aircraft after years of searching. The planes are thought to be in good condition.
According to British newspapers, the fighters are believed to have been packed in crates and hidden 40 feet underground by order of Earl Mountbatten shortly before the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.
The British Embassy said yesterday that the agreement was reached after discussions between President Thein Sein and British Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to Myanmar earlier this year. The excavation of the rare planes is set to begin by the end of the month.
The daily Myanma Ahlin reported that the excavation agreement was signed by Director General of Civil Aviation Tin Naing Tun, Cundall on behalf of his British company DJC, and Htoo Htoo Zaw, managing director of Cundall's Myanmar partner, the Shwe Taung Paw company.
"It took 16 years for Mr. David Cundall to locate the planes buried in crates. We estimate that there are at least 60 Spitfires buried and they are in good condition," Htoo Htoo Zaw said.
"This will be the largest number of Spitfires in the world," he said. "We want to let people see those historic fighters."
The nimble fighter gained fame in the Battle of Britain, fending off waves of German fighters and bombers. According to The Guardian newspaper, 21,000 were built, and 35 remain in flying condition.