P-MAN VIII Update #22
7 March 2006

A brief digression

First, a little retrospective to last Saturday. This is not new information about the new Avenger site, it's completely separate. But important.

Readers who've looked at the main page on this Web site within the last few months know that a friend of ours, Blake Pospisil, whom we met here Palau in 2004 when he was the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) specialist on the JPAC team, was killed while disarming an IED (improvised explosive device) in Iraq last December. Our most dramatic memories of Blake were from a visit we made together to Peleliu to scout the Baxter TBM crash site on Pope's ridge, in anticipation of the upcoming JPAC recovery mission. Blake was thrilled to see first-hand the huge collection of unexploded ordnance lying around, much of which he'd only read about during his training. Blake stayed close to us and herded us in safe directions, stopping occasionally to mark particularly scary stuff with pieces of blue tape.

Two years after he led us through this area, Blake's warning tapes still mark
some UXO in a valley on Peleliu. Thanks, Blake. © Reid Joyce 2006

While we were back on Peleliu on Saturday, we made a special trip to Purple Beach specifically to remember a couple of recently deceased friends, including Blake. There was nothing formal. We hung out on the beach for awhile with our own thoughts, and then swapped a few words about Blake - even spoke a few words directly to him. We were fortunate to be able to get to know him, even if only briefly.

Remembering Blake on Purple Beach, Peleliu. © Reid Joyce 2006

The other mission on Purple Beach was for Herb Shore. Herb was part of an advance party from the 1st Marines that made a night reconaissance visit to Purple Beach the night BEFORE the invasion. Pat and Dan met him in 2001 near Davis, California when Pat gave a talk on the BentProp Project. They became fast friends. Herb had a long and distinguished career in California as a professor of literature. Herb died in September 2004. Pat and Dan brought a little bit of Herb back to Purple Beach and delivered it to the same surf that he braved that night in September 1944. Proud to know you, too, Herb.

A little bit of Herb Shore returns to Purple Beach on Peleliu, 62 years after
his first visit. © Reid Joyce 2006

Back on track

Okay, now back to today. We spent most of the morning in our "ready room" (Mike and Dan's 2-bedroom suite with a kitchen/living-room area), reviewing our maps and re-thinking what we think we know from the tribunal transcripts. There are still too many ambiguities, but we feel that if we can match the Japanese names of several bridges in the transcripts with bridges on present-day maps, we can come much closer to unraveling the mystery of the hand-drawn maps in the transcripts. Without those names, there are still too many possible interpretations of where execution sites described in the testimony are actually located. So we set up an appointment for another meeting with Kurata-san and Emiko for late afternoon.

We stopped by the Koror public library. They claim not to have much of a WWII collection, and referred us to the National Archives.

We stopped by the National Archives, where they claim not to have any photos or maps. They do have a ton of land records, though, which seems to be their principal collection. It's all on 16mm and 35mm microfilm. They suggested that we visit the reference library of the National museum, upstairs in the same building.

We went to the reference library of the National Museum, where we encountered a large not-very-well-organized collection of maps. We sat on the floor looking through the maps. Neat stuff, but not particularly helpful.

Mike and Pat root around in a pile of maps at the
National Museum's reference library. © Reid Joyce 2006

There's a collection of photos in the museum's archive collection, but the curator of media wasn't there, and he's the only one who knows how to run the equipment to view some of the collection. So we went across the parking lot to the museum itself. Lovely new place, but the media guy wasn't there, so we toured the museum. It's really spectacularly done. We'll have to go back when we have more time and just be tourists. As we were leaving, we encountered the media guy, and made an appointment to visit him on Thursday morning.

Some spectacular architectural models of Japanese buildings in Palau,
some of which don't exist any more. © Reid Joyce 2006

Finally we went back to Kurata-san's house, where we spent another hour or so going over names of bridges, and discussing some of the hand-drawn maps that were included in the tribunal testimony. He knew some bridge names but not the key ones. His daughter Emiko, however, knew someone else who might help. She called him. He recognized the bridge names, but said he didn't know which bridges the names refer to. BUT - he said he's sure his aunt, who was alive during wartime, could make the connection. We're going to try to contact her. And Kurata-san is still trying to contact the landowner on Arakabesan on whose property there may be an interesting grave site.

Before dinner we met with Jon Vogt, who passed on enough maps, photos, and articles related to Palauan culture to keep us busy for the next year! Thanks, Jon!

We wrapped up an information-packed day by having dinner with Bert Yates. Hanging out with Bert is like catching up on a soap opera for which you've missed a year's worth of episodes. If Bert ever decides to transition to another career, he should consider stand-up comedy. It's always a treat to get his take on the goings-on in Palau.

- Reid