Report to Explorers Club by Patrick Scannon (FN 96) 24 April 2001
Summary of Project P-MAN II (7- 24 October 2000)
I. Expedition Members: Chip Lambert (MN 01) Team Leader, Pam Lambert (MN 01), Pat Scannon (FN 96), Greg Kovacs (FN 01), and Reid Joyce.
II. Explorers Club Flag Number: 103
III. Executive Summary
The primary purpose of this expedition was to continue searching for and to document crash sites and lost crewmembers of US airplanes shot down and reported as missing in action over Palau during WWII, during the period of March 44 through August 45.
Team member Pat Scannon headed this part. We were able to locate, both on land and in the ocean, 3 previously undocumented aircraft crash sites. We located one of the US crash sites in the jungles of Babeldaob near Ngatpang. A second crash site was in the jungles of Ngeruktabel and the third was on a coral head at a depth of seven feet, west of Ngatpang. We have not yet completed identification of these aircraft, given the extent of damage; this process is ongoing. We do know that two are US aircraft and are unsure of the third (Ngeruktabel). A fourth crash site (previously found by team member Pat Scannon) was photographed in greater detail on this trip, which has already resulted in reclassification by team member Reid Joyce of the crash site from that of a F4U/FG-1 Corsair to a TBF/TBM Avenger.
Matching WWII aerial photos with scuba diving, we found three previously unidentified Japanese ship debris fields, the result of US aerial bombing missions from WWII. Team member Chip Lambert headed this part. At least one of these (possibly two) appears to have been a Japanese minelayer.
All newly discovered sites found were photo- and video-documented, and where possible, located for future reference by GPS.
On this expedition, we evaluated a state-of-the-art underwater magnetometer as a method for more sensitive/efficient identification of sunken aircraft. Team member Greg Kovacs headed this part. This endeavor proved unsuccessful (at least for the sites evaluated) as the magnetometer did not lead us to aircraft thought to have crashed in several identified locations. The known reasons for lack of findings include: 1) software problems which hindered interpretation, 2) detection of true positives that were not aircraft (eg, fuel bunkers, marine engines and other iron-containing debris) and 3) detection of false positives (positive signals on the magnetometer but nothing sighted upon diving). The possibility also exists that one or more of these reported crash sites might not actually exist (any longer).
In an ongoing effort to track down WWII airmen lost over Palau but never recovered, during this trip we met and collaborated with Professor Don Shuster from the University of Guam and members of the U. S. Army Central Identification Laboratory from Hawaii (CILHI). Based on research initiated by Professor Shuster and supplemented by team member Pat Scannon, a CILHI recovery team went to Palau to search for a burial site on the island of Babeldaob in Palau which may contain up to 3 U. S. airmen and 10 missionaries executed by Japanese military in September 1944, just prior to the American invasion of southern Palau. Although the CILHI ground team did not locate the actual burial site, much progress was made in narrowing down the location, as a result of extensive fieldwork and interviews of the local chiefs, elders and some witnesses. Information gathered on this trip set the stage for a probable return trip by CILHI in September 2001. Our team also collaborated with CILHI on a second crash site (Avenger) we discovered on Peleliu during Project P- MAN in 1999, which is being considered for further exploration at a later date.
As a continuation of our efforts in finding lost US airmen and based on stories members of our team had heard during prior visits to Palau, three members of our team met with tribal chiefs from the Ngatpang State to discuss possible Japanese jungle military positions where US airmen may have been held as prisoners and possibly executed. Through the aid from these chiefs, a local hunter guided our team to what we believe is the previously undiscovered jungle combined headquarters ("Shudon Shireiken") of Lt. General Sadae Inoue, commander of all Japanese Imperial forces in Palau. Amid an extensive network of caves and other structures, we found at least one area, which has characteristics of a large gravesite. This information has been photo- and video-documented and is in the progress of being assembled for forwarding to CILHI for further evaluation.
On our way back to the United States, three members of P-MAN II team stayed over in Guam where Pat Scannon made a presentation of our efforts in Palau to members of the Micronesian Area Research Center at the University of Guam.
Finally, multiple interviews conducted during Project P-MAN II by team members of Palauans along with recently-received new archival information have resulted in our team now being aware of at least eight new aircraft crash sites to explore on our next expedition. As an extension of this, through the efforts of Professor Shuster and his wife Wakako, we have recently made connections for the first time with Japanese living in Japan who were either participants or observers during WWII in Palau and who may be willing to may assist in locating sites of fallen aircraft or missing American airmen. An expedition, P-MAN III, in conjunction with Professor Shuster and CILHI is in planning for September 2001.