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P-MAN VII Final Report

Introduction to Findings

Our decision for a 30-day P-MAN VII mission was based on the balance between having enough search time and having enough physical endurance: it was a good decision. And, in spite of a detailed, 84-page briefing book on our objectives and plan, P-MAN VII rapidly took on its own independent life.

We knew up front that P-MAN VII would be different: we had two new members, Mark Noah and Mike Olds, and for the first time in four years PostStar Productions would not be following and filming us, with their shot lists, color coordination, and other Hollywood-speak. Then, the day before we left, Dr. William Belcher at JPAC requested that we show an advance team of U. S. Navy divers the B-24 that we found last year, in preparation for a JPAC recovery mission (RT-2). Upon arrival in Palau, we also had a surprise visit from Chip and Pam Lambert, BentProppers who had been on several prior missions, last in 2000. And with them was John Chatterton, the "talent" on the television series Deep Sea Detectives, prevented by heavy winds from diving on the USS Perry in southern Palau; he spent a day with us searching the western Ngeruktabel area. As if these were not enough last minute changes, Mr. Tommy Doyle, son of SSGT Jimmie Doyle (an MIA on the B-24), requested to join us in Palau to dive on his father's crash site, before RT-2's April recovery operations began. We finished P-MAN VII by meeting the second JPAC recovery team (RT-1, scheduled to do a land-based investigation on Peleliu) on our last day. In spite of these "unscheduled events," we found time to investigate more land and water sites than in any prior mission - from the northern tip of Babeldaob to the southern tip of Peleliu. The weather stayed perfect for searching (i.e., not much rain, not too hot). All of Palau was buzzing about the Survivor, Palau series, which aired during our mission (but whose filming had been completed about 3 months earlier). All in all - a setting of constant change, while our briefing book gathered dust.

P-MAN VII was a blend of diverse activities. We conducted many more interviews with Palauans than ever before, collecting 16 hours of video tape. One of these interviews resulted in finding a new Avenger crash site in Aimeliik and a second interview opened up an entirely new search area for several missing American POWs, believed executed in Ngatpang. Taking a break on March 9, we held a special ceremony on the water over the B-24 with Tommy Doyle, the President of Palau and local dignitaries. We continued to produce real-time daily logs with photos for our BentProp web site readers (through the journalistic efforts of Reid) - with ongoing commentaries as well from Flip Colmer, who experimented with blogging. We gave two talks at Sam's Tours to large audiences, and were honored to give an invited talk to the Council of Chiefs. And somewhere amongst all these activities, we found six new crash sites, although five were Japanese - unusual in our experience. Also unusual was our searching 16 new "leads" and coming up negative.

This set of results prompted me to review and analyze our findings from the last five P-MAN missions to provide a snapshot of our accomplishments.

 
P-MAN
III
P-MAN
IV
P-MAN
V
P-MAN
VI
P-MAN
VII
TOTALS
FOUND - US Aircraft
3444116
FOUND - Japanese Aircraft
2184621
SEARCHED - No Findings
1811016 36
TOTAL SEARCHED
61313182373
  
FOUND - US+Japanese Aircraft
55128737

Definitions:

"Found" either means

a) a NEW crash site found on that mission (one per aircraft [i.e., independent of the number of separate debris fields] - total of 33), or

b) a key site of potential interest (i.e., 3 cemeteries and the General's House - total of 4). Importantly, this does not include sites I found before P-MAN III that we returned to, such as in 2003 (P-MAN V) when we visited 5 "old" sites.

"No Findings" means we physically inspected a site, found nothing and we have no reason to return.

"P-MAN" means Palau - Marine, Army Air Force, Navy.

Selected Results:

  1. Of 73 New Attempts (Total Searched) over the past 5 years, we have found 37 New Sites (Found - US + Japanese: 51% overall success).
  2. Over the 5 year period, we have consistently increased the number of new searches we do each year (See Total Searched Row).
  3. US: Japanese New Sites = 16:21
  4. In P-MAN III - IV - V, Found US : Japanese = 11:11 but for P-MAN VI - VII = 5:10
  5. For P-MAN III - IV - V, No Findings : Total Searched = 10 : 32 (31%) but for
    P-MAN VI - VII = 26 : 41 (61%).

Working Conclusions from Analysis:

  1. Overall, we have a 51% success ratio (Result #1) BUT the trend over time is toward fewer New Finds per Total Searched (Result #5) [NOTE: P-MAN V may have been an aberration for No Findings (only one) since we spent a lot of time revisiting previously Found sites and had little time to do a lot of new looking.]
  2. Remarkably and unpredictably, we have found an almost equal number of American and Japanese crash sites (Result #3). Too early to call, but on a purely numerical basis, it would appear that we seem to be moving toward finding fewer American sites over time, relative to Japanese sites (Result #4).
  3. Overall, we view the regional networks we have created in Palau and our preparatory archival research as having increased our mission capacities over the past 5 years (Result #2).

Since its inception, the BentProp Project has recognized that our searches within Palau occur within an independent and sovereign country. Hence, we understand that we owe the Palauan people an explanatory summary of our intentions both before proceeding on and afterward we finish each mission. For some time, we have notified the Palauan Historical Preservation Office (HPO), headed by Ms. Vicky Kanai, Director, and Ms. Rita Ulsudong, National Archeologist, of our plans and our findings, including detailed GPS tables, and, when appropriate, maps. We have been honored that on several occasions, members of HPO have asked our opinions on various matters relating to WWII. Beyond HPO, we have also stayed in touch with key Palauans, such as Senator Surangel Whipps, Mr. Mason Whipps, Mr. Surangel Whipps, Jr., and Governor and Mrs. Shallum Etpison - who in turn have connected us with state government officials and Chiefs, so that we may explain and receive permission to proceed with our efforts. We have had the privilege of getting to know President Tommy Remengesau, Jr., and his Chief of Staff, Mr. Billy Kuartei, both of whom have expressed interest in our work. We continue to work closely with Mr. Tangie Hesus on matters relating to Peleliu. Also, I have been invited on several occasions to make presentations to different Palauan organizations.

The BentProp Project does not take lightly the generosity of the Palauan people, on both official and informal levels, and we are determined to work hard to retain the trust we have been able to create with the people of Palau.

The BentProp Project also feels that, as we are investigating historical matters concerning our armed forces during WWII, we owe the American people a summary of our efforts. Accordingly, we coordinate our activities, as appropriate, with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Hawaii (JPAC), the U. S. Naval Historical Center (NHC), Washington, D.C., the U. S. Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), as well as Ms. Deborah Kingsland, Charge d'Affaires ad interim of the United States Embassy in Palau. We send confidential reports to these agencies, as appropriate. We also provide a non-confidential version of this report to the public through our Web site: www.bentprop.org .

To all of the above, the members of the BentProp Project express our deepest gratitude for the spirit of cooperation, patience and interest that we receive from each person and organization.

Introductory Note1

As with prior BentProp Project missions, P-MAN VII generated a lot of information in a non-linear manner - by which I mean that we typically explored more than one site in any given day and revisited sites according to need, weather and opportunity. Since this apparent chaos does not lend itself to a cohesive chronological review, I have decided to pool descriptions by event and not by date. As many P-MAN VII personal events are ably captured in the daily logs on the BentProp Web site and separate log of team member Flip Colmer, the summary that follows will focus more on key findings (although not exclusively). All references to specific identities of deceased individuals, human remains, maps and GPS readings have been intentionally deleted from the CONFIDENTIAL REPORT delivered by the BentProp team to the President of Palau, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Hawaii (JPAC), U. S. Naval Historical Center (NHC), U. S. Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), other related agencies of the United States, as well as the Palauan Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Historical Preservation Office (HPO) and other related agencies of Palau.

Introductory Note 2

During P-MANVII, the BentProp Project team had the honor of interviewing Palauan elders (and their families) concerning their recollections of WWII.. We asked for and received permission from each Palauan in advance and we videotaped most of the interviews for reference. I have conveyed in this report aspects of these stories relevant to our searches. Each member of the team has had an opportunity to review and comment on this summary to insure objective and accurate presentation. We found Palauan recollections diverse, and they included views both of the Japanese occupying forces and the American attacking forces. While some of the Palauans' descriptions are vivid and may be upsetting to the reader, these interviews confirm and extend our own research, which includes:

  1. Archival work at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Bishop Museum;
  2. Interviews with former Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) officers in Palau during the war (who provided similar graphic recollections) and with American veterans;
  3. Independent research of Professor Don Shuster at the University of Guam;
  4. Efforts of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command;
  5. Other textual sources.

In the final analysis, and with no interest in retribution, we will continue to search for even the smallest, most seemingly obscure piece of information that may help us locate Americans Missing in Action from this brutal campaign. It is equally important to us that the reader understand the processes we have used to make our findings - thus this report.

Introductory Note 3

The Palauan language is quite a challenge for our untrained ears. In BentProp reports we try to present correct spellings of the names of Palauan places and individuals, and we struggle (with great respect but sometimes comical results) to master pronunciations that occasionally seem to defy logic (yeah, we know - English may also be rightfully accused of the same kind of illogic). This year, because of our extensive interviews with Palauan elders in all corners of the country, we encountered many new names of people and places, some of which are presented in this report. We know how important it is to people to have their names (and the names of their villages) properly spelled, but we make occasional mistakes, both orally and in print. We apologize if any such mistakes appear here, and ask the reader's indulgence and help: if you spot an incorrect spelling, please drop us a note with the correct spelling.
 

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Page last modified 25 August 2005