P-MAN VI Update #33
Saturday, February 21, 2004

P-MAN VI is drawing to a close.

Since Pat and I are flying out of Palau at 2:30 a.m. on Monday, today was our last day for diving. We made a couple of dives on the new B-24 site. This time we accompanied Bill "Leeboy" Belcher and a couple of other JPAC people, for whom today was a day off. Bill's mission was to return to the site and remove some loose items, including some unexploded ordnance, with the approval of Palau's Historical Preservation Office. The ordnance was properly disposed of. Other items will be taken to Hawaii for cleaning and conservation, then returned to Palau for display in the new national museum.

The JPAC people will be leaving for Hawaii on Wednesday. The two sites that they tackled here (the hillside cemetery in Ngatpang and the Corsair crash site in Malakal Harbor), which they addressed with energy, skill, and determination, required all of the time available for this trip. But they have some reasons to be encouraged about the likely success at the site on Peleliu that was originally on their list for this trip. They hope to come back at a later date for that, and for the new B-24 site - which is now protected by the Palauan government and is off limits to the diving community. They also have reason to be optimistic about success at the B-24 site.

Leaving Palau is always a sad occasion. We're all deeply fond of the country and the people, and leaving Joe Maldangesang is always like saying goodbye to a brother. Joe is an amazing person and a good friend. Like the rest of the BentProp team, he believes in his heart in our mission: to locate information that may some day lead to the recovery and identification of long-lost MIA airmen, and ultimately to the return of their remains to their homeland. The Palauan culture also believes strongly in the same need for return of its sons to their birthplace, if they die far from home.

Since I first met Pat and learned of his passion for this mission, I've shared the dream of someday playing a small part in the return of even one young American aviator who died here in Palau six decades ago. The BentProp team (it didn't have a name when I first met Pat) has shared many small disappointments and some resounding successes over the years. We keep finding new aircraft and identifying some of them - and sometimes our research leads to matching the aircraft with the very men who were flying them when they disappeared. The remarkable people of JPAC have been bending their efforts toward closing the recovery and identification circle here in Palau as they have done so often in other corners of the world. It's been an honor to know some of them and to consider them friends. I can't begin to describe how it feels to believe that one day soon, it may turn out that our combined efforts have led to the first realization of that dream. On this trip, we've done our part. We'll be back. And next time, and the times after that, we'll find a way to honor more of those guys who are still out here waiting for us, with Lawrence Binyon's words:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Onward and Upward! Strength through Joy!

- Reid