P-MAN VI Update #4
17-18 January 2004

Days 3 and 4 have gone by since the last time I touched the computer. It's pretty clear that we're stuck with using the Internet Cafe for all Internet-related stuff, and that my son-in-law, Gene Stover, back in Pennsylvania, will be posting the files that I send back to him, most likely for the duration. Thanks, Gene!

Yesterday (Saturday the 17th), we made a dive on the Quintus B. Nelson Corsair site in Malakal Harbor.

Pat, Jennifer, and I made two dives, during which we confirmed that objects found last March hadn't been disturbed - and we found a few "new" objects that hadn't been noted before, including what appears to be the pilot's throttle quadrant, spotted by Jennifer in about 15 feet of water almost directly under the bow of the dive boat. Very cool find, and it should be encouraging to novice divers everywhere that Jennifer (whose first diving experiences were here in Palau last March) always seems to find the most dramatic stuff. Like machine guns. And whole wings, although she needs a little work on the part where you actually remember where you found the wing. JPAC wi'll begin working back here in about two weeks.

Today (Sunday the 18th), we were to get an early (0700) start and accompany a small number of JPAC people to the mass grave site in Ngatpang State on Babelthuap, which they will be excavating for about the next two weeks. We got the early start part right, but it turned out that the JPAC people were in the throes of being moved out of their nice hotel and moved into a...less nice hotel. MUCH less nice, according to some (no, they weren't being thrown out for being rowdy. It was an administrative thing). And since it was critical to get the housing issue under some kind of control, they decided to bag the trip to Ngatpang. We had planned to go with them to that site, then go with Joe, our Master Guide, to a reported new aircraft wreck site just north of the present airport. We had picked Joe up at his house. On the way to the JPAC hotel, he reported that he'd discovered that the "new" aircraft site was actually one that our team had visited and cataloged before. When we got to the hotel and discovered that our planned day with JPAC was cancelled, that pretty much left us with a blank slate for today's plan. (Note: when we came back this evening to see how they were doing, we found that they were still in the original (BETTER) hotel, having done some serious negotiating on price and schedule. Can you imagine a hotel turning away a sure-thing group of nine people for 40 to 50 days? Obviously, the hotel people came to their senses).

True to the team's "Semper Gumby" motto, Joe called Neco Marine and ensured that his boat would be available, we whipped back to the hotel, swapped our hiking gear for diving gear, zoomed over to Neco (well, even on a traffic-free Sunday morning, zooming in Koror means driving at 25 mph instead of 20), loaded the boat, and headed for southwest Babelthuap.

During our December 2003 trip to NARA (National Archives and Records Administration, in College Park, Maryland), Pat Scannon, Flip Colmer and I had assembled some photographic evidence that our P-MAN II search in October 2000 may have been looking for the Jack Arnett B-24 on the wrong corner of Babelthuap. Instead of the eastern end of Toachel Mid (the channel separating the islands of Babelthuap and Koror), the Arnett B-24 may have gone down at the western end. One piece of evidence was a Graves Registration Unit report, which placed the loss of a B-24 in water "too deep to investigate" in roughly this area. We had also reviewed film negatives shot from another B-24 during the mission on which Arnett was shot down. Over a series of frames in this sequence of photos, we tracked what appear to be several aircraft pieces as they fell in flames toward the cluster of coral heads at the northwestern end of Toachel Mid. We felt that from the photographs, we could identify several distinctively shaped coral heads in this area, beside which a pattern of surface strikes was clearly seen to evolve in the photo frames.

Pete Galli, PostStar Productions' photographer/videographer, is also a whiz with Photoshop, a sophisticated piece of digital-image-manipulation software. After today's dive, Pete put on a dazzling display of Photoshop wizardry that allowed us to superimpose multiple frames of the WWII NARA photos and add an overlay of GPS waypoints. This exercise made it clear that we have some powerful tools to help us absolutely pinpoint some of the impact areas in the 307th Bomb Group's mission photos.

Most of the impacts that we see in the photos appear to be in areas not more than 70 feet deep: perhaps too deep for the GRU investigators immediately after the war, but well within our present sport-diving range. We need to do some additional data gathering before our next dive in the area, but one of the resources that may be available is a flight on the Belau Air Islander aircraft. Possibly within the coming week, we could have a chance to capture some aerial photos of this area, with which we can compare the NARA photos shot during the war. We can then go back out in the boat and capture several more GPS waypoints in more precisely known (on the photos) locations, after which we should be able to map the water impacts against the way those coral heads look today. With that much information, we believe that we can precisely cover the impact area with a reasonably-sized dive team - possibly soon after the rest of our team arrives from Thailand at the beginning of the second week in February.

Oh, yeah - almost forgot: guess what's located less than a half-mile from this intriguing cluster of impacts, in a straight line with the cluster string AND with the extended path of a couple of falling objects that we see in two of the photo frames? A single Hamilton-Standard prop, sticking straight up from a coral head and visible at low tide, that's too small to be from a Corsair, but is consistent in size with a B-24's prop. We've been puzzling about that one for years...

We may finally lead the JPAC team to the Ngatpang site some time late tomorrow (Monday) morning. We'll have to see how that goes before we can schedule the next piece of our own investigation.

Onward and upward! Strength through joy!

- Reid


  • If you stay up writing progress reports until really late, there's a definite risk of nodding off and drooling on your laptop computer.
  • Writing desks in motels ought to be equipped with air bags.
  • Apologies to those of you out there who wish there were a direct link to the list of progress reports from the BentProp site's main page. If it weren't such a hassle to make changes to the site's navigation under our present circumstances, I'd consider changing the navigation sequence. But since as it is I'm having to send report files to Gene to post, and since I can't use my laptop and Web-authoring software over at the Internet Cafe, it's just not worth the extra time to try to wire around stuff like that in addition to the other semi-important stuff that we're doing. I'll just have to ask you to suck it up and make three mouse clicks instead of two to get to the latest report.