P-MAN XIII Update #21 - Diving in Kossol Passage. Casey gets his coin. Peleliu.
PBM Mariner and Flying Fish
The environmental makeup of the landscape and waters on and surrounding Palau can vary greatly. On one end of the spectrum you have mangrove swamps, which is like crawling around in the oil recycling vat at your local recycle center.
On the other end of the spectrum is an enchanted place called Kossol Passage. This area is just north of the island of Babeldaob (the largest, northernmost island) and could easily be the background for any closing scene of a Disney movie. The water is a color of blue, which hasn’t been named yet, and no camera is capable of capturing it in a photo. The sea life is active and it isn’t uncommon to have schools of friendly dolphins (with big smiles) accompanying the boat on the way up. After two days of crawling around the agonizing mangroves, it was time for a change of pace and unfinished business in Kossol Passage was where we headed.
Based on information from local Palauns and friends of BentProp, we spent the day diving and searching for the aircraft in question. One aircraft we did dive on and confirmed its location (though MIAs are not associated with it) was a PBM Mariner, which was a large US Navy seaplane that was used as patrol bomber. On the way back from Kossol, we didn’t have dolphins swimming next to the boat but did have many flying fish popping up to showcase their airborne abilities, which were impressive!
After a long day in the sun and diving the reef, we enjoyed some Thai food, and picked up Dan O’Brien at the airport. He enjoyed his brief sabbatical back in the states after P-MAN 13a and is back for more!
Pilgrimage to Peleliu
Just as all muslims are supposed to visit Mecca at some point in their lives, all Marines should visit one of the epic battlefields of the Pacific such as Peleliu. With several items for BentProp to sink its proverbial teeth into on and around Peleliu, we headed south for a visit to the island of the ferocious battle almost 67 years earlier. With three Marines on the team here in Palau, and one having not yet seen the island yet, it was a must that we get down there.
Some of the items on the checklist for today were to check out some new caves we had gotten word about; visit a supposed new American airplane boneyard; tour some of Peleliu’s battlefields and monuments; and do another dive on the landing craft in question that we dove on earlier in the week, to get another set of eyes on it. We accomplished most of these tasks but ended up diving on a known TBM Avenger site closer to Malakal due to time constraints.
Most of the day was spent on Peleliu both checking out the new caves, boneyard, battlefields, and monuments. The caves on Peleliu that the Japanese occupied never fail to be fascinating, but quite spine-chilling at the same time.
The newly discovered boneyard we visited was also very interesting. From there, we toured both a U.S. Marine and U.S. Army memorial, an LVT-A-4 armored landing craft, Orange Beach, and the merciless battlefield the Marines and Japanese Imperial Army battled in, called "The Horseshoe.” This was Captain Casey Doyle’s first visit to Peleliu and it was a first-rate tour. After the captivating visit to Peleliu, we didn’t have enough time to dive the landing craft near Peleliu but did do a dive on a known TBM Avenger closer to NECO Marine so we would have the boat back in time. Some very interesting things found today as well as some vital history learned first hand.