P-MAN VII Update
Saturday, 12 March
Sam's Tours came to our rescue again with an offer to lend us their SUV to go up to Ibobong and Ngatpang for some additional interviews in places that our little van would never have been able to reach. Thanks again, Sam and Dermot!
We were delighted that Tommy Doyle was able to come with us today. Everywhere we went, people had heard of him and his story. We began in Ibobong with an elderly gentleman who had worked for the Japanese loading and unloading ships. He loaded a lot of coal used for fuel by the Japanese vessels. He had spent time way up north where he recalled seeing canned goods and mattresses that washed ashore along the north coast, but this was apparently at a time when a large American fleet was using the Kosol Passage as an anchorage, so it seems likely that the goods were lost or jettisoned by our surface ships, rather than possibly reflecting, say, a sunken submarine.
We then went to visit a couple of women in Ngatpang near the West Road who had been recommended to us by someone who attended Pat's presentation last night. Throughout the morning, it rained in torrents over the whole island, making the already-rough roads a little weirder, and making us even happier to be driving the 4WD SUV. Thanks, Sam and Dermot!
The women only had stories that they'd heard from their fathers and others. They believe that they know someone who knows the location of the legendary cave that the Japanese were constructing as a tomb for all of the Palauans. The story is that because of food and ammunition shortages, the Japanese were going to move all of the Palauans into this cave and just seal it. Their description is a fairly close match with the large cave visited by the 2000 BentProp team, which we believe was actually General Inoue's jungle headquarters, into which he moved after it became too dangerous to stay in Koror.
We had introduced Tommy Doyle to the women at the beginning of the interview, and they expressed their condolences for the loss of his father. When the interview was over, they pulled Tommy aside, and said, very solemnly, "Since your father died here, you are now Palauan." What a breathtaking sentiment.
We continued to the home of a nearly-90-year-old man, very well spoken and as a younger man, a famous local artist. He was recommended to us by a couple of people, and had actually been interviewed by Pat several years ago, before the team's visit to General Inoue's headquarters.
He told us that he was seriously miffed at the people who were gathering information prior to the JPAC mission last year at the grave site at the Kempeitei headquarters in Ngatpang. He said that he believed they were looking in the wrong place, and had tried to tell people about it, but they ignored him, so he left. He said that he believed that there was an execution-and-burial site near the Japanese hospital, which was across the river at the bottom of the hill below the police station, and that this site might be where as many as four American POWs and one or more priests were executed (similar to the story that led to last year's search of the hill near the police station).
We spent considerable time with a map, trying to pinpoint the location of the hospital, and trying to figure out where the burial site might be in relation to the hospital. We felt fairly confident that we knew where the hospital was, but still had difficulty specifically identifying the exact hill where the executions took place. The man said he'd be willing to have his son drive him up to the police station so he could point out to us which hill he was talking about, but was reluctant to let us drive him. It's unlikely that we'll be able to make contact with his son before we head home Tuesday night, so if we can arrange for the SUV for tomorrow, we may head up there and dive into the jungle to see if we can at least find the hospital.
Time was slipping away, so we headed back to Koror, to have dinner as guests of Senator Surangel Whipps, President of the Senate. Tommy and Nancy Doyle were honored guests.
After dinner, although it was REALLY hard on all of us, we said a reluctant goodbye to Tommy and Nancy, and wished them a safe trip back to Snyder, Texas. To us BentProppers, they're definitely cherished family.