P-MAN VI Update #13
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Today was the day we'd worked out with Chief Grant of the SeaBees to meet him and his apprentice Rawllin back at the backfill site beside the driveway. We picked up a friend with some EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) experience, and met the Chief and Rawllin at the site.

Using a rake and a couple of shovels, the group cleared the leaves and vines away from the area where Rawllin indicated that a wing had been sticking out of the ground until last year, when someone pulled it out and carried it away to parts unknown.

The EOD person went over the area with a metal detector and almost immediately found a fist-sized fragment of an iron bomb. Then there were a few more smaller fragments. Then there was the indication of something larger, so the shovels flew a bit more and revealed a long piece of angle iron, sticking down into the ground at a shallow angle. WAY down into the ground. Someone suggested attaching a towing strap to it, and trying to pull it out with the truck. Lots of strap stretching, bit it didn't budge - and no one lost an eye. But the idea of using machinery was beginning to gain appeal, especially since it turned out that the SeaBees had a huge backhoe parked just up the road. Shovels? We don't need no stinking shovels when we've got friends like this!

The backhoe arrived and in short order we managed to pull the big chunk of angle iron out. It's obviously part of what appears to have been a radio tower right by the water about 20 meters away: the rest of the tower's twisted, broken pieces are probably buried here, too, unless the scrap metal was salvaged. But it was beginning to look like this is not a high-probability site, especially since the story of the rest of an aircraft buried here is a bit iffy. We dug in a couple more spots in the immediate area, with the same result, then filled it all back in. Thanks to Rawllin for the info and to the Chief for the big-time machinery. We think we'll be leaving this site in peace now.

Next stop was at the upper end of Koror, to pick up Katarina, a hard-charging lady who's in her early 80s, who was a teen-ager when the missionaries were executed and buried up at the police-station site, along with the three B-24 crew members, a couple of frogmen captured on Yap and brought back here, and possibly a couple more airmen. Since Katarina was instrumental in locating the site where JPAC is presently digging up there, we wanted to take her back to see the site now that parts of it are cleared, and see if she had any more detailed recollections about where the graves might be specifically located.

We parked our car down by the road and a couple of people headed up to the site at the top of the hill to bring a 4WD truck down to get Katarina. Unwilling to wait for the truck, Katarina sprinted out ahead of everybody and charged up the hill.

At the top, with much of the brush cut back and a couple of fairly large areas scraped by the bulldozer, Katarina had to fight her way through a mob of cameras to a spot from which she could see the whole area. It was clear that she was simultaneously dealing with some vivid and painful memories of long ago, and trying to orient herself to a landscape that's now deviod of the buildings, people, vehicles, and bustle of a relatively busy place 60 years ago.

Although the experience didn't seem to reveal any new insights to Katarina, she may return tomorrow to try again. The JPAC team is planning to stand down at this site pretty soon, very likely without having found any remains. It's a big area, without any good landmarks to pinpoint the location of the grave site. At some point, no matter how hard it is to throw in the towel, it's a fact of life that the JPAC team has to stop chasing leads at a site and move on.

Tomorrow looks like it'll be an interview day.

Onward and upward! Strength through joy!

- Reid