P-MAN VI Update #30
Tuesday: This morning we had breakfast at Sam's, so we could interview a young lady who works there. Dennis had mentioned that she knows the location of a crash site in Airai. It turns out that the site she knows about is the FM2 Wildcat site that we've visited a couple of times, and to which we were planning to return this afternoon.
After meeting with her, we paid a courtesy call on the Ibedul, who is the Paramount Chief of Palau's Council of Chiefs. We wanted to let him know what we've been doing, and to see what he might know about crash sites. He was very cordial and interested in our mission. Turns out that he was in the US Army some years ago, and was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco at the very same time Pat was stationed there in the '70s. We think he'll be a friend of the BentProp Project in the future.
Next we dropped by the JPAC barge in Malakal Harbor, so that the PostStar people could tape an interview between Pat and Bill Belcher, and also capture a video tour of the operation on the barge. It looks like they will be completing their work at this site within the next couple of days. They have not yet found remains of the aviator who was flying the Corsair that crashed here. If remains exist, they are not in the two large areas searched to date.
Next we went back to the FM2 Wildcat site in Airai. Along the way, we borrowed a couple of shovels and a rake from the SeaBees, and a trowel from an archaeologist friend.
At the site, we cleared some mud and clay from the exposed part of the front of the engine. Pat found a data plate that had originally been located on the front of the engine, attached with rivets to a casting. The casting was evidently shattered when the engine impacted the hillside. The front of the crankcase is exposed - the data plate survived relatively intact, with three of its four rivets still in place - but it was just sitting there in the mud, surrounded by small fragments of the casting. The bad news is that this plate contains only a list of patent numbers, not the serial number of this specific engine, which could be a positive link to this particular aircraft and its pilot. The good news is that the plate identifies the engine as a Wright R-1820, which was installed in the FM2, rather than the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 that was installed in the F4F version of the Wildcat. Just confirming that this was an FM2 should considerably narrow our information search, if we can gain access to the proper data bases. The data plate will be turned over to the Palau Historical Preservation Office.
Wednesday: Today was mostly devoted to running errands and trying to plan the remainder of the week. At the PNCC office near the airport, we picked up a video copy of President Remengesau's press conference of a couple of weeks ago, during which he announced the finding of the new B-24 site and his determination to protect the site.
We met briefly with a woman at the Airai View Hotel, whose husband knows the location of some shipwrecks in the Rock Islands.
We visited Rita Ulsudong at the Historical Preservation Office. We gave her a brief summary of the new sites that the team has found this year. We passed on the FM2 tailhook and engine data plate found at the site in Airai. She has tentative plans to display these objects at the new museum, pending identification of the aircraft. Rita also agreed that it would be acceptable for PostStar to develop a public-service announcement to run on the local cable-TV channel, stating the purpose of the BentProp efforts and requesting that people come forward with information about new sites. This could be a valuable tool for generating leads in anticipation of the next BentProp expedition.
Late in the afternoon, we picked up Roddy at the SeaBees' camp, and drove to the T-Dock area to meet with Roddy's brother. They had agreed to sit down there with us and with Joe, and see if together they can reconstruct where the "plane with bones in it" is located near the old Malakal lighthouse. But Roddy's brother didn't show up. We rescheduled the meeting for tomorrow.
In the evening, we met with Bill Belcher to do a data dump - to provide whatever information Bill needs about this year's new BentProp-discovered sites, for future consideration by JPAC.
Onward and Upward! Strength through Joy!