P-MAN VI Update #14
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Yesterday (Wednesday) was an interview day, as we anticipated. Pat and Jennifer went back to talk to Katarina, and took Joe along as an interpreter. It turned out that some of Katarina's uneasiness the day before had been the result of her uneasiness about the scope of JPAC's interest. She was a personal friend of one of the priests executed at the Ngatpang site, and she has been afraid that the JPAC people planned only to identify the remains (if any were found) of the American airmen and frogmen who were known to have been executed there, but not to deal with the Palauans who were also executed at essentially the same time. Pat assured her that JPAC would deal with the Palauans in the same way as the Americans, and would notify families and return remains if any were identified as the Palauans.

We went over to Neco Marine to allow Joe to view a videotaped interview from two years ago with an elderly Palauan who had told a story of one or more planes near an old quarry. Pat and Senator Surangel Whipps had conducted the interview in 2002, but some of it was difficult to understand on the tape, and Pat's recollections couldn't fill in the gaps. Joe donned headphones and listened to the old man's answers. We decided that there were enough missing pieces that it would be desirable to re-interview the old man if possible. Joe knew where the old man lived, so we all drove up to Airai, near the airport, to talk to him. A young girl who lived in an adjacent house informed us, sadly, that the old man passed away about a year ago, and his wife is presently visiting relatives in Yap.

We headed up to Belau Air to arrange another overflight with Matt. Late Sunday morning looks good so far.

We checked a couple of times to see if Joshua was back from work, but never managed to catch him.

We were able to use the relatively slow pace of the day to continue planning, but didn't uncover any new leads.

Today (Thursday), we met the JPAC folks early at Neco Marine and headed down to Peleliu. The objective was to get them oriented to the Baxter TBM crash site, which stretches from the engine on Pope's ridge, above the quarry, back to a piece of the tail, which lies near the upper end of horseshoe valley. There's some steep climbing up to the engine, and some fairly easy jungle walking up the valley. The JPAC EOD guy was in his glory. The entire island is literally covered with unexploded ordnance. The JPAC folks also needed to explore local accommodations and make reservations for their team for the roughly two weeks that they'll be here in mid-February. Having the WCBS crew along made for a fairly leisurely pace in the jungle.

With a little time to spare before departing on the return boat ride to Koror, we stopped by Orange Beach, the site of the first Marine invasion of Peleliu. Now, it's a beautiful, peaceful beach, with lush jungle along its length. Hard to believe that during the fighting between 15 September and 27 November 1944, it was the third most costly (in terms of casualties) ground action in the war in the Pacific.

Onward and upward! Strength through joy!

- Reid