11 March 2005
Friday, 11 March
This morning we had an interview with a Palauan gentleman who had been recommended to us earlier. He lives near the A-K causeway.
Turns out that when he was working at a sawmill in Aimeliik, he actually visited the site of the Avenger that we just discovered a few days ago in the mangroves. But according to him, back then (late fall of 1944), there weren't any mangroves and the wreck site was near the shore, in plain view. He took a tool kit with him, for the purpose of removing the machine gun from the left wing (he was sure it was the LEFT wing), in hopes of finding some parts that he could use to repair his air rifle. Yep, that's what he said. Unfortunately, the parts from the .50-caliber machine gun didn't quite fit his air rifle. Go figure. And he doesn't remember what happened to the gun.
The story he told (second-hand, from someone else who had seen the aircraft go down) is that the aircraft was flying quite low on a bombing run. There was an explosion (he assumed that the explosion was from a bomb that the plane had just dropped) that damaged the aircraft, which crashed in the water just on the ocean side of a ridge. He said that it was in water that was pretty shallow, but never quite completely exposed (2-3 feet deep at low tide), so it could have been outside the area that's presently been reclaimed by the mangroves. He didn't know if any of the wreckage was subsequently salvaged.
He indicated that the story was that there were no survivors, but he did not report seeing any evidence of remains and he was very vague about the size and amount of other wreckage that he saw besides the wing. Since the aircraft had crashed some time before he visited it, he wasn't able to narrow down the date of its crash. Could have been anywhere from March '44 on.
The rest of the day was consumed by admin stuff and visits, and included some time that Pat needed to prepare a talk to be presented tonight at Sam's.
We finally found Rita Ulsudong in the office at the Historical Preservation Office (we'd tried several times over the past couple of weeks but never managed to catch her in the office). We transmitted some materials and information to her about the FM-2 site in Airai.
In the early evening, we all headed to Sam's, where Pat and Joe did a presentation with an international flair. Pat used a PowerPoint presentation to discuss some of the history of the war in Palau, followed by a discussion of the BentProp mission and a presentation of findings so far on this year's expedition. It was well attended and very well received.
We had a quiet dinner at Carp, and Flip headed out to the airport for a 1:50 a.m. departure to Guam, Narita, and Michigan. He wasn't optimistic about making all of the flights he wanted, so he felt it was prudent to leave a few days before the rest of us in order to be sure he'd be back in time to start back to work.