P-MAN VI Update #1

Hello Everyone!

As I look out my Michigan window, and realize the high temp today will be 13 degrees, I can tell you for certain that I am soooooooo looking forward to this year’s mission to Palau.

You are receiving this note because somehow you got on my Palau Supporters list. As I’ve said before, some of you have given material support for these undertakings, others are too involved in the stories to give up reading them, and the rest have threatened me with bodily harm if I don’t include them on the distribution list.

The itinerary is a little different this year. JPAC, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (formerly CILHI) is mounting a 6 week expedition to excavate 4 of the sites we’ve identified over the past few years. These are the official government folks that do this for a living. You might remember two years ago that Bill Belcher of CILHI accompanied us on his vacation time while we were searching. Now he’s back with a force of searchers. They’ll be all over the islands looking for what they’re supposed to be looking for. Their mission lasts from mid-January until late February.

Coincidentally, Pat Scannon, the founder of The BentProp Project, decided that this year’s mission would be roughly the same length. I wonder? I think this is the work smarter, not harder theory at work for both the official government group, and the NGO.

However, some of the searchers from BentProp have a prior commitment. Four of us will be in Thailand on another skydiving world record attempt: 372 people in one formation. The current world record stands at 300, and that was set in December 2002. You can check out The World Team at www.theworldteam.com.

So here’s the itinerary as I know it today.

  • BentProp from start to finish: 13 January-23 February Pat Scannon and Reid Joyce in country
  • Flip and Rebecca in Palau: 16 Jan-20 Jan
  • Flip and Rebecca leave for Thailand: 20 Jan
  • Thai divers in Thailand: 21Jan-08Feb Val Thal-Slocum, Dan O’Brien and Kate Cooper (Kate is new to the project) and me
  • Thai Divers join BentProp: 09-Feb-23Feb

We go now!

Since I last wrote to you, we have done some more ‘discovering’ here on the homefront, particularly at the National Archives in College Park, MD. We found a treasure trove of photos that show airplanes resting in water, being blown up while airborne and faces of some of the folks we are looking for. If technology will allow it, here are some of the photos.

B-24 bomb run over Palau:

Possible target:

High Value Unit captured in bomb run photograph:

The Brief being taken out by AAA fire:

We also found squadron After Action Reports and ship’s log entries that are helping us narrow down search areas for some of our missing airmen. Some of the entries are giving us leads to folks that we only knew their names, but not how/where/when/what happened to them.

We made 3 trips to The Archives and each trip gave us more leads and more information. We’re pretty sure there are still some nuggets of information to mine there. And the staff at NARA is the best around. IF the entire government were staffed with professionals such as these, we would all be getting our tax dollar’s worth.

We also found some nuggets at the Naval Historical Center at the Washington Navy Yard. The folks there are equally as helpful and if they have the info, they’ll help you get it.

We were able to meet with a number of people who have a personal interest in all this. Pat met up with a few WW II reunion groups. These are the guys who were over there, and made it back. To this day, they all want to know what happened to their squadron mates, shipmates and comrades. Pat is able to fill in the gaps, 60 years later. And he always comes back from these visits with little nuggets of info to help out the future searchers.

We also presented a flag to Dawn Misley. We found her brother’s crash site and were able to fill in some of the blanks for her as to what happened to her brother. It is still amazing that people can find comfort in finding out the details so many years later. And that’s why I keep going back. It’s a great feeling to be able to bring this to people.

We had a pre-mission briefing in Davis, CA in October. Or was that September? We went over potential search targets, people to talk to, areas of responsibility and so much more. As Pat likes to say, ‘It’s nice to have a document to throw out as soon as reality strikes.’

One bit of technological news, Reid Joyce, the BentProp webmaster, is going along on this year’s mission. He said that he would try to upload my updates nightly (give or take) to the website. So instead of you having to get a big missive from me, with pictures, diagrams and arrows, you will probably get a one sentence note with a link to the appropriate webpage. Something like this: www.bentprop.org/. And as always, if you want off this distribution list, just let me know.

Okay, that’s it. We head out shortly and my next note will be from places way out west. Until then.

Blue Skies, Flip

PS

LESSONS LEARNED ALREADY

  • If you put a hole in your wetsuit during the last mission, it won’t get repaired until after the start of the next one.
  • Even people in California have trouble finding bug spray in winter.
  • The U.S. Postal Service guarantees delivery of my package to Palau in two days. Nothing can get to Palau in two days. Can you say free shipping?
  • If you allow an extra day for research at the Archives, that just means you needed two extra days.
  • If you buy yourself a really good digital camera, buy your spouse the same model, not the next one down the food chain.
  • A plan is just something to deviate from.