P-MAN XV (2013)

The P-MAN XV (2013) expedition ran from
15 March - 15 April

Click here to read the regular progress reports as they're posted during this year's expedition.

Plans for the 2013 expedition

This proposed mission is an extension of underwater search mission from P-MAN XIV. Over the past year, the BentProp Project has built a relationship with Dr. Eric Terrill and his team of Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) experts at the Scripps Institution for Oceanography (UCSD). In addition, we have continued to work with the Stockbridge High School (SHS) Advanced Robotics Team which led an independent co-mission with the P-MAN XIV team.

The result is that the P-MAN XV team has created a unique set of underwater search collaborations with an unprecedented capability to explore Palau’s ocean floors for Americans Missing in Action associated with aircraft (throughout Palau) and landing craft (off Peleliu). In parallel, we have continued to conduct extensive research at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA, College Park, MD, USA) and other archival sources, particularly in reference to 1) a B-24 reportedly shot down SW of Koror (US and Japanese sources) - possibly in Western Lagoon, 2) both old and new reports of multiple American aircraft crashing in the waters around Arakebesan, northern/central Ngeruktabel (western Lagoon), and Malakal Harbor (US and Japanese sources), 3) landing craft sunk to the west of White and Orange Beaches of Peleliu and 4) new information leading possibly to a new crash site of a TBM-1C Avenger and crew off western Aimeliik.

The map above and the explanations below show the key targets we are currently proposing to investigate during P-MAN XV. This proposed plan includes four Return Target (RT-1 to -4). Other sites may be investigated, with appropriate approvals, if the team becomes aware of new data or information during our stay. Accordingly, the P-MAN XV team plans to cooperate, as appropriate, with the Palau Bureau of Arts and Culture (BAC) and the Historical Preservation Office (HPO) in support of our mission. Also, although the mission plan primarily focuses on underwater searches, it is conceivable that data learned from underwater discoveries will lead to need for searches on land; as appropriate, the P-MAN XV team will communicate such findings to BAC and other local authorities as part of the search requirements.

As in our prior missions, upon our arrival in Palau we will schedule and make a courtesy call with the Palau BAC/HPO. We also will make calls to additional Palauan officials (e. g., President Remengesau and other national officials, governors, chiefs) and individuals, as appropriate, as well as to the US Ambassador to discuss our plans. Finally, the P-MAN XV team will provide, per its protocol, a preliminary confidential summary of its findings, before leaving Palau, to BAC/HPO, and, in the United States, to JPAC and Navy Historical and Heritage Center (NHHC).

As with prior missions, the P-MAN XV proposal incorporates plans solely for the continuation of our search for American sites of possible MIAs, and for preliminary evidence at those sites that suggests that American MIA and/or POW remains may be present. In an ongoing agreement with BAC, we intend to stay in regular contact with the Director BAC, during our mission. We have no plans or intentions for excavating or removing human remains or associated artifacts. We will not remove, or permit anyone to remove for us, any artifacts or remains from such sites, unless specifically directed and approved by BAC/HPO (in concurrence with JPAC) to do so. As always, we do intend to obtain GPS coordinates, to map and to photograph any new findings we make. Should we discover evidence of human remains, we will immediately notify BAC/HPO and JPAC and cooperate in any follow-up actions as directed.


NOTE: This is a four-week mission. All findings from proposed targets will be reported to BAC/HPO and JPAC in a timely manner. As stated above, before leaving Palau, the P-MAN XV team will submit a preliminary summary. This will be followed up by a final report after all analyses have been completed. This year’s mission mainly covers four prior areas.

Return Target-1 (RT-1, Underwater, Series of locations around Arakebesan, Malakal and northern Ngeruktabel (Western Lagoon)): BentProp Project has been searching this area since 2009 and has identified several possible targets by Side-Scan Sonar. This year, the team proposes to continue its underwater search combined with the use of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles in collaboration with a team from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Remote Operating Vehicles (ROV) in collaboration with USS Silversides Museum and Stockbridge High School teams. The Scripps team in collaboration with the P-MAN XV team request permission to conduct an underwater non-invasive video documentation of at least two WWII underwater crash sites for archeological preservation purposes, with the intent of sharing resulting data with BAC. As appropriate, we plan to dive on key sites of interest. The P-MAN XV goal is to continue its underwater search in the Arakebesan/Malakal/northern Ngeruktabel (Western Lagoon) area for American aircraft and associated MIAs and will document all findings.

Return Target-2 (RT-2, Underwater, Line of water west of outer coral reef off White and Orange Beach of Peleliu): During P-MANXIIIb, BentProp Project reported finding an LVT(A)-4 landing craft on the southwestern end of the Peleliu invasion beaches. This year, we propose to continue the search for additional landing craft by a team from Scripps Institution of Oceanography using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles. The P-MAN XV operational goal is to search for and document additional landing craft suspected to have been sunk by enemy fire during the September 1944 invasion.

Return Target-3 (RT-3, Underwater, Line of water east of outer edge of Ngkukel Channel): This is a follow-up of an interview reported in the P-MAN XIV Final Report concerning a sighting by a Palauan elder who saw an American aircraft sustain anti-aircraft damage just offshore in northeastern Babeldaob, subsequently crashing in that area. Weather permitting, we plan to collaborate with the Scripps AUV team to conduct a search in the general area of the channel for this aircraft and its aviator(s).

Return Target-4 (RT-4, Underwater, Line of water in area northwest off Aimeliik): During 2012, we became aware of a report of an American aircrew lost when their TBM-1C was shot down and crashed into the water off Aimeliik. This is consistent with the wing of an Avenger we found during P-MAN VII (2005). Our archival search has described an area off northern Aimeliik which may be the crash site. The P-MAN XV operational goal is to search for and document evidence of that crash site and for any associated human remains.

Finally, as with prior missions, the P-MAN XV team would like to continue its interview process with Palauan elders, hunters and fishermen in gathering videographic historical information from WWII. The BAC/P-MAN XV MOA Form and the Interview Consent Form are being sent in parallel with this proposal.

Many other American aircraft lost over Palau have never been found. Accordingly, the P-MAN XV team will continue to request interviews with Palauans to seek information leading to additional crash sites, MIAs or POWs, using the BentProp consent forms developed with the help of the Palauan BAC. Should such information be sufficiently compelling, the team may elect, as appropriate and with prior permission, to investigate. As mentioned above, the P-MAN XV team plans to stay in contact with BAC/HPO, JPAC and NHHC should significant or unexpected findings occur and will provide BAC/HPO, JPAC and NHHC a preliminary summary of findings before leaving Palau.

As always, the members of the BentProp Project recognize that our searches in Palau are granted by the Palauan government as a privilege. We will continue to respect the Palauan people, their rules, and customs. On behalf of the P-MAN XV team, we look forward to our return to Palau.


Patrick Scannon, MD, PhD: Team Leader (California, USA)

Joe Maldangesang, Conservation Officer, Ngcherelong, Master Guide, Boat Captain (Palau)

Flip Colmer, Delta A320 Captain, P-MAN XV Mission Coordinator: Naval Historian, Aviation Expert, Photographer and Former Diving Instructor (Michigan, USA)

Major Derek Abbey, USMC active duty Instructor, Aviation Expert (North Carolina, USA)

Dan O’Brien, BentStar Project, Cinematographer, Photographer, Aviation Historian (California, USA)

Captain Casey Doyle, USMC, Active duty, stationed on Okinawa

Jolie Liston, PhD: Archeologist – part time as available (Hawaii, USA)

NOTE: The Scripps team and the Stockbridge High School team will be submitting separate documentation to authorities.


Progress Reports from P-MAN XV (2013)

In Palau, the current time (GMT +9) is:

While the 2013 expedition was under way, we posted regular progress reports (see below). Over the past several years many of you have become regular, eager, enthusiastic readers of the progress reports. Thanks for your interest and support! And thanks for being understanding on those occasions when we get behind by a day or so - there are times when there just aren't enough hours in the day, and we fall asleep before we can finish documenting the day's efforts.

This year's reports includee contributions by several of the field team members. Each report indicates who wrote what.

2013 Expedition Progress Reports


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