Italian researchers claim to have found wreckage off the Sardinian coast of a huge Messerschmitt-323 Gigant (Giant) of which some 200 examples were built and none of which were thought to have survived the war. The Me-323 spanned 180 feet, was driven by six wing-mounted piston engines, weighed 45 tons, could carry 120 fully equipped men and was thought to exist in the modern world only through history books.
The wreckage is submerged below 200 feet of sea water and divers have reported to the Telegraph.uk that "it is in good condition -- it is almost intact, with the six engines still all in line." Considering the aircraft's time on location and how this particular aircraft was lost, that report might surprise some people.
The 323 was built to transport halt-tracks, tanks and artillery. It was built from a mix of tube and fabric with plywood and fabric wings. It often flew with a crew of five with two flight engineers manning stations between the two inboard engines on each wing. Some variants had turrets in the wings. The aircraft was considered to be underpowered, cruised at about 175 mph, and offered a range of roughly 700 miles.
It was loaded through double doors that formed the nose of the airplane's nose. Production ceased in April 1944. The Italian-found sample is thought to have been shot down by a Bristol Beaufighter while en route from a German base in Sardinia to Pistoia, Tuscanny. The team that found the wreck said they had expected the aircraft to be in a different location and "were lucky to stumble on it."
Source: AvWeb, Photo: German Federal Archives
Gravity always wins!