P-MAN IV Update Series, #7
Ladies and Gentlemen, success! We found a Corsair 2 days ago that hasn't been seen in 57 years by anyone other than a few Palauan hunters. But of course, lessons learned:
So, 2Lt. James Misley was apparently shot down by a Japanese 5 inch gun in early 1945. We found the airplane yesterday. We found it scattered in a gully in the jungle with the majority of it in a 50 yard area, but pieces of it scattered to the tops of each side of the gully. We found the stick, some cockpit pieces, the tail section including tailhook, landing gear, one oil cooler, a couple of cylinders and many other pieces. What we did not find were any remains, personal effects, wings, pilot's seat, canopy, tires, undamaged machine guns and of course a whole lot more.
Our best guess is that the Japanese found the pilot and buried him. The Japanese HQ was only 2 miles away. They stripped the airplane of the machine guns and ammo and other parts they wanted. The airplane wreck was left where it was. In 1947, Graves Registration came through and found some bodies. (We suspect that they never got to the wreckage.) They went unidentified and this body was shipped to Manila and stored there. In 1949, through dental records, this body was identified as 2LT Misley. He was brought home and reburied in Mt. Shasta, CA. However, some of his squadron mates never found out about his disposition. Pat Scannon is going to call some of them. Especially his wingman as he really wants to know.
We left after a full day on the site, but could never take any video of it as it was raining all day. And let me tell you, this was jungle rain and mud just like the movies. Everything was wet and everything and everyone was covered in mud. The little rivulets were raging torrents. Okay, we could jump across them but I'm trying to paint a picture here. The island we are on is Babelthuap (pronounced Babeldaup). It is one of only a few volcanic islands in the Palauan chain. All the rest are coral mounts that have been pushed up out of the ocean. So where as most of the islands just get wet and slick, where we were you see the red dirt (like Georgia red clay) turn into red gumbo.
We left the site so we could get back, get some chow and then sleep and return the next day if the weather would allow us to. On the way out we bottomed out our vehicle many times, peeled the radiator off the brackets, repaired same in the field,
helped run the Seabees 4 wheel drive vehicle off the road, visited two monuments to the war dead and future peace, ate great Japanese food, and managed to cover every square inch of the van with mud, both inside and out. When traveling from Koror to this island, once you cross the nice new bridge, you have 45 seconds of pavement, 3 minutes of cinder roadway, and then dirt or mud depending on the rain quotient. Also, every inch of the road is under construction as they are trying to build a real roadway all around Babelthuap.
Today, we went back to the site. En route, we made two stops at some local hunters/fisherman houses on the island as they have some intel for us.
Back to the site. Not raining so the really big torrents that we could leap across were almost back to rivulets. Took video of everything. Found more pieces. There must be a lot more of the airplane below the surface of the mud. We suspect through the natural erosion of the wet tropical forest, over time, the pieces accumulated down in the gully. In addition to what we found yesterday, we found a rudder pedal with fore and aft adjuster and brake cylinder, vertical stab, turtle back, mid fuselage and more. The tail was found the first day, sitting on the side of the gully.
When we were done, we decided we still could not go to The Japanese General's HQ due to a time crunch. So, we ate our lunch on the boat by the bay. Hey, you can teach old mudboggers new tricks, We left the car behind. No mud to explain to the rental agency. Also, no unauthorized repairs. We took the boat back to the debris field we enlarged last week. Took some measurements, found a few new parts buried in coral and have updated our opinion that this is another Corsair and not a SBD. There is a Corsair known to be down in the area, and the pilot lived to tell about it. But no identification numbers were found to confirm it.
Jim and Neel Nelson (QB's son) hosted us at their hotel tonight for dinner. What a great time. Boat drinks, finger food, local entertainment (HEY! Don't be thinking like that. This was traditional Palauan dancing) and a great Shabu-Shabu dinner. They really feel grateful for what Pat is doing for them in particular and with Bent Prop in general. And Jim is with us on most of the climbs and all of the mud. Neel wasn't too happy about the mud part when we dropped him off at the hotel tonight. Also, the guard would not let him in. Something about "we don't let your kind in here." In any case, a good time had by all.
Tomorrow, back to the nasty old coral islands. Looking for QB's airplane where we have some 'hot tips'. I think this is just Pat Scannon's Health and Wellness Plan for the 40-somethings that are searching with him. Okay, back at ya. I hope you're enjoying these as much as I am sending them.
Blue SKies, Flip
PS Gator, is there such a thing as a GPS based chart and what is the datum for Palau? I have no idea what any of that means, but someone wants to know.