2009 BentProp Progress Report # 08

P-MAN XI Update #10b - Reid digresses; More Flip
24 February 2009

It's making me crazy not to be in the field in Palau with this year's BentProp team. But thanks to former BentProp team member Mark Noah, I was able to travel to central Florida and drown my sorrows briefly in aviation fuel and do some aerobatics in a couple of WWII-vintage airplanes this past Sunday. This has nothing to do with this year's BentProp expedition other than to bolster my claim that when I'm not in Palau I'm always either working on the Web site or trying to learn as much as I can about WWII aircraft. That's me below, in the front seats of Mark's company's N2S Stearman and T-6 Texan:


Mark's company, History Flight, operates three T-6s/SNJs and the Stearman. They sell instruction, aerobatics, and rides, and in the summer they travel around the country (mostly the northeast and midwest) pretty much barnstorming. They're a non-profit company, and they apply revenues to MIA-related efforts like BentProp, mostly in the Pacific (e.g., Mark spent several days last summer on the island of Betio, in the Tarawa atoll, looking for a burial site of some Marines who were killed there). I've volunteered to upgrade their Web site, and by sheer coincidence, I happen to charge for my Web work in increments of Stearman time...

- Reid

Okay, back to the relevant stuff:

From Flip

23 February 2009

First off, lessons learned:

  1. People lose stuff at the most inopportune time.
  2. Capers do taste good.
  3. Navy Divers are the best.
  4. A plan IS just something to deviate from.

We started off the day with a bagel, egg, bacon and cheese sandwich. Yum. We got off on time and got a chance to visit the Navy Divers from MDSU-1 on the USNS Safeguard. This is a salvage ship that plies the waters out here doing good works around the region.

The Divers have a full dive locker on board including a decompression chamber. They showed us around and showed off their find in the water: two huge anchors and lots of chain. This was a mooring system for a really big ship. The anchors were cast in 1934 and probably were put in place prior to the war. If I remember correctly, each anchor was 16,000 pounds and there was 107,000 pounds of chain. A really big ship. And it is known the Yamato, the world's largest battleship, was berthed here at one time.



Our tour was over and we departed. Well, except for Wil. Seems he lost his visitors badge along the way and he had to retrace his steps back to the ship to find it. Meanwhile, I took some of our group up to our work area for the day. I dropped them off and I headed to Ngatpang State offices to pick up our permit. Unfortunately, the woman I have to see is back in Koror meeting with the Governor. So we can only hike today. No work.

I drove back to where I let my charges off and there was the other van and Rick waiting for me. Wil must have found his badge so he could leave the port area. I started to change into all of my jungle togs and Sisca from the state office comes to a stop. She had the permit, handed it over and said have a good time.

Today's plan has been in the making for 2-3 years. Mark Swank developed a theory from the data he and Katie have been finding in the archives. His thoughts are that if we can find the Kempei Tei Headquarters, then we have an anchor point to trace the steps taken as reported in the war crime trials transcripts. Those steps would take us to the execution site of the airmen, frogmen and missionaries. If we're lucky. There was one piece of the puzzle that might really help us. There was an air raid shelter in the sketches that looked pretty solid. Maybe it was still there. We found lots of foxholes and fighting positions. We did a search pattern and Joe found a substantial looking cave. I took a look and was struck how the shape of the dug out shelter looked like the arched air raid shelter in the diagrams we saw. I shouted out on the radio about this but just about everyone ignored me. We climbed to the top of the hill, took a break and walked back down to the air raid shelter.


I pointed out the shape and everyone agreed that this could be the designated shelter on the map.

We decided that we had enough information to establish that this was the Kempetei HQ. Our next step was to see if on the opposite side of this valley were obvious Japanese emplacements as described in the War Crimes Trials. If Mark was right again, it validates his theory.

We had lunch down the road, hiked up to the top of the ridge and down into the forest we went. And there were, as Mark had predicted, the Japanese emplacements. Mark's concept is validated. Our next step is to look at his alternate areas and either eliminate them as possibilities or add them into the fray for future exploration. One thing Mark was charged with before coming out to Palau was to come up with alternate theories for where the execution sites could have been.

We got off the hill well prior to sunset and went to Bem Ermii for our first burgers and shakes. That was dinner.

Back at the hotel, I got a note from PNCC about Internet service. I may have some good news on that front tomorrow.

At 7pm, Master Diver Jon Klukas from MDSU-1 came over and gave us some training on conducting side scanning sonar searches. This is his element and he made what was going to be a large task much simpler. I don't think it will be any less mind numbing to be going across wide swaths of ocean at 2-3 knots, but at least now we'll be doing it much smarter. And we do like the smart person, vs strong person theorem. Especially since Jon said, “Want me to come along?”

I was going to get this out last night but I fell asleep in my chair typing. Maybe later today we'll be on our own Internet connection.

This was a great day and tomorrow will be even better.

24 February 2009

Today is our first day of split operations. In the history of BentProp, it is rare for us to split the group and do different things. However, this year we planned on doing split ops. We have sufficient numbers of people, and we have different interests. It also allows us to essentially do four weeks of work in three. But it is new
for us.

Rick, Paul and Wil went out to do Side Scanning Sonar (SSS) work. Pat, Mark, Warren, Katie and Molly went up to Police Hill to work on the alternate areas for the executions. I stayed behind to deal with admin stuff.

We should have our own Internet tomorrow. The Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC) has given us a significant discount for DSL service. Normally for the speed of service we're getting it would be around $1000.00 including installation and startup fees. We are getting it for less than half of that. They have our money and have signed paperwork. It was pretty stormy today so maybe they just couldn't do it. Safety first.

Then I got us a cell phone, paid the insurance policy, sent out a Web update, checked on packages for Rick (he still is looking for his scuba gear) and did a few more odds and ends that needed to be accomplished for the team. Then I headed out to join the land team prior to lunch.

The water team left early and went out with the Navy divers. They came back to the dock late in the afternoon just a few minutes after we got there and they were stoked. They did run into bad weather: storms, rain and wind. Just like we did up on land. Except we did not get as much wind. They motored on and got great training on SSS. They dove on one contact and it was just too murky at the bottom and they decided not to dive on any more. But they got some good solid contacts.

They also nixed the first boat assigned and got a better boat with a better cover. So we're all set for the next SSS day which will be tomorrow. That will be Rick, Paul and Pat.

Up on the hill, our intrepid explorers searched our "B South' area for possible executions. I joined them just about at lunch time. When I entered the jungle, it was dark. And raining. Then they stopped for lunch. And for the first time that I can ever remember, I had a peanut butter sandwich. Yes, I guess it did taste a little like peanuts, but I kinda thought it was more like tofu. I suppose with jelly it might get more interesting. But, at least I did not go hungry.

After lunch we hit area “B North”. We found what appeared to be ancient burial mounds. But in neither B South nor North did we find the kind of Japanese emplacements as we found in area "A'. So far, Mark's theory is holding water. At least as far as what we are finding on the ground.

The burial mounds are stone piles, similar to ones we've seen with Jolie before. The sites are missing some telltale signs of ancient Palauan burials, but don't look modern either. Well, that's why Jolie loves us. We bring her stuff. We did get to chat with her today and she's heading out with us tomorrow so we can show her.



Back to town at the end of the day for a little sashimi, fish tacos and libations at the Drop Off at Neco. Then a quick change and out to Krämers for all-you-can-eat spaghetti night. We always look forward to it even though we only ever have one plate.

Mark wants to challenge the house next week. If you eat 3 plates, they pay your bill.

So the battle is on.

We had a great day and I can feel it building.

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