Summary of Findings From P-MAN V Expedition to Palau
28 March-17 April 2003
Patrick J. Scannon, MD, PhD
Here's a background
map of Palau, as seen by US Marine Corps during WWII
(Map courtesy of USMC).
Patrick Scannon (Team Leader and Medical Officer), Dan O’Brien (Team Land Safety Officer), Flip Colmer (Team Dive Safety Officer and Military Liaison), Val Thal (Team Navigator and Back-up Medic), Jennifer Krasny-Powers (Team Travel Coordinator), David “Clem” Major (Camera Man and Team Climbing Safety Officer) and Joe Maldangesang (Master Guide)
Team member backgrounds:
- Pat Scannon: MD, PhD (chemistry),
Chief Scientific and Medical Officer and founder, XOMA, Ltd (biotechnology),
and founder BentProp™ Project, Explorers Club FN96, former Major
- U. S. Army Medical Corps, scuba diver, sky diver (141), California.
- Flip Colmer: Command pilot
(DC-9) for Northwest Airlines, former Navy F-18 fighter pilot (LTCMDR
(Ret)), skydiver (3000+), scuba diver, aviation expert, Michigan.
- Val Thal-Slocum: Command
pilot (MD-11) for Federal Express, aviation expert and aircraft restorer,
skydiver (3000+), scuba diver, river rafting instructor, chef, Tennessee.
- Dan O’Brien: Co-founder
PostStar Productions, pilot (GA), skydiver (10,000+), scuba diver, aviation
historian, backup videographer, movie stunt coordinator, California.
- Jennifer Krasny-Powers:
Co-founder PostStar Productions, skydiver (5000+), back-up videographer,
scuba diver, alpaca farmer, California.
- Clem Major: videographer
and photographer (including underwater and aerial, oh, and and too),
rock climber, skydiver and base jumper (7000+), scuba diver, former
USAF flight engineer, California.
- Joe Maldanesang: Master guide, boat master, linguist, explorer, fisher, diver, cultural liaison, betel nut aficionado and much more, Palau.
SUMMARY OF GENERAL FINDINGS OF P-MAN V:
During 28 MAR - 17 APR 03, I made my tenth return to Palau, this time with the P-MAN V team for further exploration of and search for American airmen and their aircraft crash sites within the Palau Islands. This team brought a continuing broad base of expertise and capabilities essential for expanding searches for these airmen, Missing-in-Action (MIA), some as Prisoners-of-War (POWs), since WWII.
The P-MAN V primary goals, in brief:
- To search for several new WWII aircraft crash sites, primarily based on leads obtained during the P-MAN IV expedition of April 2002
- To reinvestigate selected sites in greater detail
- To continue interviews of Palauans who might have knowledge of these and other aircraft crash sites and MIA’s from WWII, with particular attention on POW’s sighted by Palauans
- To obtain GPS coordinates on selected crash sites found previously
As with P-MAN III and P-MAN IV, an independent video production company (PostStar Productions) sent a crew (Jennifer Krasny-Powers, Dan O’Brien and cameraman Clem Majors) to document this expedition.
P-MAN V key events included:
- Finding, mapping and identifying one new WWII U. S. Corsair fighter crash site, Malakal Harbor, 12-14 APR 03.
- Finding, mapping and identifying a partially known prior site as a U. S. TBM-1C, on and around Pope’s Ridge and the Horseshoe, Peleliu, 5, 6, and 10 APR 03
- Collecting GPS coordinates on five previously discovered crash sites
- Searching 3 areas for possible leads on undiscovered crash sites
- Interviewing Palauan elders for their recollections of WWII concerning downed aircraft and American POW’s with trips to three known Japanese military grave sites (and one possible US POW execution site).
- Identifying and mapping three previously undescribed Japanese twin-engine bomber wrecks off NE Peleliu, 10 MAR 03.
- Making invited BentProp presentations to the Palauan Ministry of Justice and the Palauan Conservation Society
- Opening several leads for future P-MAN expeditions
Introduction to Findings:
All the members of P-MAN V had been to Palau on a BentProp mission at least once before – so we all knew each other. But even though I had conducted extensive research, including a short trip to Palau in early February 2003, to complete preparations for P-MAN V, considerable uncertainty existed upon our arrival of just what we might find. We had expected to spend most of our time in the muddy jungles of Babeldaob and among the coral spines of Peleliu; some of us did not even bring our dive gear this time. Whereas P-MAN IV had a strong emotional component with our sharing both the return of a combat Marine aviator and the search for a then-still-missing aviator with his son, we anticipated P-MAN V to be more of a fact-finding mission than last year. Because we had learned to prepare ourselves physically for this trip, we thought we would be better able to handle the extremes of the coral jungles to the south, the dense volcanic-based jungles to the north and the mangroves in between. On all counts, we should have known better.
But we had the advantage of having worked as a team under duress and this made up for any unforeseen deficiencies: we did know we could rely on each other.
Introductory Note: As with P-MAN IV, P-MAN V generated a lot of information in a non-linear manner – by which I mean that we typically explored more than one site in any given day and revisited sites according to need, weather and opportunity. Since this apparent chaos does not lend itself to a cohesive chronological review, I have decided to pool descriptions by event and not by date. Each section does mention the dates upon which that particular event occurred and I have attempted to link related events, as appropriate, by reference. All references to GPS readings mentioned herein are considered by the BentProp team as CONFIDENTIAL (and therefore not listed in this report) and have been transmitted for use at the discretion of the U. S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CILHI), U. S. Navy Historical Center (NHC), U. S. Air Force Historical Research Agency (USAFRA) and other related agencies of the United States and the Palauan Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Historical Preservation Office (HPO) and other related agencies of Palau.
The following photos (© PostStar Productions, photos
by Clem Major, 2003) show BentProp team members of P-MAN V with individual
American flags throughout Palau. The flags will be delivered to families
of the airmen from these crash sites.