2009 BentProp Progress Report # 13b

P-MAN XI Update #13b - Flip
28 February 2009

Back from Peleliu, Flip sent the following two days' worth.

- Reid

From Flip

26 February

Unfortunately, I am writing this two days after the fact. I had fully intended to write yesterday at the end of our day off. But at 8 pm, I decided to rest my eyes for a few minutes. My hand had been floating all over the keyboard and I thought a short nap would solve that. When I opened by eyes again, and it was 3am, I decided I would call it a night.

So on the 26th, we did a split op day. I joined the water team along with Molly and our team leader Rick. We still had the Navy with us, Mariano Lorde, who would continue our SSS training. A couple of Navy guys
went on the land team but Mariano wanted to make sure we got up to speed with the gear. And of course we had our guest boat captain, Asa.

We made sure all the SSS gear was hooked up and running and then we pushed off from the dock. We were going to search the same area as they did the day prior, but just at a different angle. One of the lessons of SSS is that finding stuff isn't as easy as just looking at a television screen and saying "there it is." You need to make a number of runs over your target area (and we have a large target area) so that you can narrow it down on the scope where you want to splash in. And it isn't as easy as just saying, "there it is on the screen, let's swim to it." It will take a bit of effort to actually locate a SSS target visually.

So Rick took the first turn at the screen with me and Molly looking over his shoulder, trying to learn. But the best way to learn is to get screen time so I went next. And the light bulb went on. Last year, looking over Rich Wills' shoulder (JPAC SSS guru), I felt like I was flunking an ink blot test. But this year, applying some aviation and avionic analogies, the screen made sense.

Each of us got to call out suspect targets. The unit we're using has the ability to mark a screen shot of what we are looking at, create a geographic waypoint off of GPS and display it back to us for review at a later time. We created a number of waypoints and gave each a description of what we saw, not necessarily what it actually is. Sort of like looking at clouds. I called out a B-52 and a DC3 forward fuselage because that was what it looked like on the screenshot. I think we also found a screwdriver and wrench, running man and certainly NSJ: non specific junk.

Toward the end of the day we moved to shallow water and did SSS as well as trolling for sharks. Trolling for sharks is when we put lines over the side and let divers be towed by the boat. For visual searches, you can cover a lot of ground this way. Unfortunately on that day, visibility was down so we would lose the bottom at about 25-30 feet. But we did find junk. Just not airplane junk.

It was a long day and we ended at about 4pm. But we did find what we think are two ships, one that might be a new find. Hopefully, we'll dive it this year and confirm it. If it is, and if it is in good shape, Palau might have another tourist dive site.

Meanwhile, back on land, Mark led everyone back to the execution area. He had two of the Navy divers with him who wanted to see what we do on land. They got a bit of a tour of what we accomplished already and then they all went back to Area A. With more time spent in the area, they feel pretty confident that they may have found the hole that Charlie Smith was executed in. Charlie Smith was a British national, married to a Palauan. He was accused by the Japanese of being a spy and was killed. However, information from the War Crime Trials suggests that the American POWs and the Missionaries were killed nearby.

So Charlie Smith not only is a victim, he's a signpost. We made a presentation two years ago to Rich Wills from JPAC that they should scrape an area we found that we thought might be that execution site. We only had a few bits of data from the War Crime Trials and this area seemed to fit, somewhat. Mark and Katie uncovered a lot more source data and Mark worked for a couple of years on his theory of where the executions took place. What we have seen on the ground matches his theory. We are going to have Mark prepare a presentation to give to JPAC that this is the area to investigate officially.

The land team and the water team met up at the Palm Bistro for a debrief and then went to The Taj for dinner with the Navy DIvers. We whooped it up with them as it was their last night in port. The USNS Safeguard was pulling out the next day and taking the Divers with her. Their tour is coming to a close and the next company of divers is making its way out to meet the ship. But we wanted to thank the divers for all of their help, as well and thank them for the service to our country. Dinner was on us.

From Flip

27 February

A day off! Well, sort of. We hiked just as far and over some rough terrain, but it was as tourists rather than searchers. All the new folks were going to mutiny if we did not take in a day trip to Peleliu. So we arranged with Tangie Hesus, the go-to guy on Peleliu, for the grand tour.

Peleliu was the big battle for the Marines in this island chain. It was supposed to be a 3 day battle after the air and sea bombardment. It lasted months and the last armed Japanese soldier came out of the caves two years AFTER the war ended. There are great books about the battle and it is worth it to delve into not only the tactics that were employed by both sides, but also the politics of the battle.

Tangie picked us up in his bus and off we went. We visited all of the tourist locations: 1000-man cave, pillboxes, Army and Marine memorials, cemetery (All internees were removed long ago and moved to the Philippines and Hawaii.) Orange Beach, White Beach, Amber Beach and much more. Then we got out and started hiking where not only have we found an airplane crash site that held MIAs, but where some of the fiercest fighting took place: Wildcat Bowl, China Wall, Death Valley, Pope's Ridge and more. We revisited some of the airplane parts that led us to a TBM Avenger that we identified as having MIAs in it in 2002. JPAC has since scraped the area and has been doing analysis ever since.

Warren saluting his fellow Marines.
He's showing the flag on the
intersection of the runways on Peleliu,
with Bloody Nose Ridge at the end of
the run way.

We scampered into some caves. However, most of the caves that are open to the public have very little in them. Most of the cool caves have been sealed off so we won't ever get to explore them. Every once in awhile, someone violates Palauan and U.S. law and opens a cave without permission to explore and/or pilfer. That's not the BentProp way so we stick to the open caves.

We had lunch at Dolphin Bay resort. This is a beautiful bungalow-style resort with a great scuba diving owner, Godwin. He and his wife have built up a wonderful place to get away from it all. For $65.00 per night you won't get Internet, TV or phones. And the island really has very little to do other than touring the battlefields and scuba/snorkeling.

But if you want to get away from it all and listen to the sound of the waves gently rolling in across the reefs, this is the place to be. We got a little delayed leaving the island and we realized it when Josie from Neco Marine called us (cell phones work at the northern edge of the island) and said we were supposed to be back at 5pm which was now. So we hopped into the boat and made a quick getaway. By the time we got to Neco's dock, it was night. I wasn't concerned about navigating in the dark around all these sharp coral islands. We have Joe and Joe uses JPS: Joe Positioning System. I had never come into Malakal Harbor at night and it was beautifully lit

A quick dinner at the Drop Off and back to the casa to prep for the next day and write something about the last two. And as you know, I promptly went to sleep.

So now it's the morning of the 28th. We're heading up to Police Hill one more time to show Jolie some ancient stuff we've found and to really nail down our Area A as the execution site. And our water team is doing more SSS sweeps. In fact, as I finish this up, Paul and Rick are laying out the lat/long points for our searches. Which means I need to get into the kitchen and make breakfast for all of us. Today is going to be
special: granola and fried spam! Can it get any better than this???!!!!!

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