Summary of General Findings of P-MAN IX
During 15 February - 16 March 07, I made my sixteenth return to Palau, this time with the P-MAN IX team for 4 weeks, continuing our search for Americans missing there since WWII. [NOTE: specifically designated as Missing-in-Action (MIA), Body Not Recovered (BNR), including Prisoners-of-War (POW)]. Like last year, this year we carried with us new archival data and photographs, from both American and Japanese sources, on top of our ongoing leads to guide our explorations. The P-MAN IX team brought both a continuing broad base of expertise and capabilities concerning Palau in four of the six team members. Bob Holler, retired with thirty years as a USAF pararescue expert and Derek Abbey, an active duty Marine aviator just returned from Iraq, each brought a wealth of new expertise and enthusiasm.
The BentProp Project has been reporting and coordinating its efforts for several years with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Hawaii (JPAC, formerly CILHI). During the P-MAN IX mission, two JPAC teams (one recovery, one search) were in country, during which time JPAC and the P-MAN IX teams conducted their separate missions as well as interacted on several occasions to share findings and data. While in country, we presented our field findings on two new potential MIA-associated crash sites and one potential POW burial site. In addition, the team continued its interactions with the Palauan Historical Preservation Office (HPO) and other agencies. During P-MAN IX, the team also continued its dialog with many key Palauans, including Palau’s Vice President Elias Chin, the President’s Chief of Staff Billy Kuartei, Senator Surangel Whipps, as well as several governors, chiefs and elders.
The P-MAN IX primary (NEW) TARGETS (T), in brief, as listed in our pre-mission proposal to HPO and JPAC, included:
- NEW TARGET 1 (US grave site, jungles, Ngeremlengui): After P-MAN
VIII, we received a map from our Japanese colleague in Tokyo locating a potential
American grave site area in central Ngeremlengui. This could be the grave
of a known Marine aviator MIA, which JPAC tried to locate in 2005 without
success. Our analysis of the map and this region suggests three possible
Ngeremlengui, where we may search. The P-MAN IX operational goal is to
return to this area with a guide (after obtaining appropriate permissions)
to search out these three areas to determine if an identifiable grave site
may be present. All findings will be reported to HPO and JPAC.
- NEW TARGET 2 (UDT MIA/POWs grave sites), jungles, Ngeremlengui and
Ngatpang): Since 1999, the area known as Police (aka Gaspan, Gasupan or Ngatpang)
Hill in Ngatpang State has been the subject of intense investigation because
of evidence mounted from numerous sources describing execution and burial of
Catholic priests/missionary families and American airmen in September 1944.
Starting in 2001, Bent Prop Project teams (P-MAN III, P-MAN IV, P-MAN V and
P-MAN VII, P-MAN VIII and research in between) have continued investigating
this area by archival work (in the US and Japan), by interviews with Palauans
and Japanese elders and by field work. During P-MAN VIII, the team learned
much new information from an elder living in Palau who also was in the Japanese
army in Palau during WWII. The P-MAN_IX team operational goals (after obtaining
appropriate permissions) include: 1) to continue to expand, as much as feasible,
the interviewing of additional Palauan elders who might remember seeing or
hearing of these “frogmen”, airmen and/or missionaries and 2) based
on current information, to return to Ngatpang and possibly Ngeremlengui to
continue our search. Such site visits will be exploratory only. All findings
will be reported to HPO and JPAC.
- NEW TARGET 3 (Corsair Aircraft Debris, jungle, Aimeliik): Our Tokyo
colleague has located a map suggesting that aircraft debris may exist in the
Aimeliik area; this is consistent with a Corsair known to have been shot down
in this area, flown by a Marine aviator who remains MIA. The P-MAN IX operational
goal is to search a discrete area (after obtaining appropriate permissions)
to determine if aircraft debris and an associated MIA is in this area. All
findings will be reported to HPO and JPAC as appropriate.
- NEW TARGET 4 (Report of Aircraft Debris, mangroves on Western Aimeliik): During P-MAN VIII, the team was told that aircraft debris, painted blue (suggesting US) is located in mangroves south of the power station in Aimeliik State. With a guide and after obtaining appropriate permissions, the team will search for and attempt to identify this aircraft. The P-MAN IX operational goal is to conduct a search for this aircraft in the Aimeliik mangroves. All findings will be reported to HPO and JPAC as appropriate.
In addition to these primary TARGETS, the team proposed investigation of secondary (previous) TARGETS which have been the subject of prior searches, depending upon whether new information is available (or not). In each instance the team proposed conducting interviews to determine if the status changed sufficiently to warrant a search. If a search is justified and after obtaining appropriate permissions, the team will investigate the following PREVIOUS TARGETS (PT):
- PT1 (Report of Aircraft Debris, in water off SW Babeldaob): During P-MAN
VII, a Palauan fisherman told us of aircraft debris in shallow water north
of the B-24 crash in the water west of Airai. Our preliminary search did
not find any debris but the fisherman said he was convinced of what he saw.
P-MAN IX operational goal, only if the fisherman has located the debris,
after obtaining appropriate permissions is to locate and characterize the
field. The team will notify HPO and JPAC of any findings.
- PT2 (Report of Aircraft Debris, jungles, Ngeruktabel): During P-MAN VII, the
teams worked with a Palauan guide who had reported aircraft debris in the Ngeruktabel
jungles; however the search was unsuccessful. If this guide has found the site,
the team, after obtaining appropriate permissions, will research the area and
attempt to identify this aircraft debris and search for MIA remains The P-MAN
IX operational goal is to conduct an identification mission, only if new information
has been found since our last mission. We will notify immediately HPO and JPAC.
- PT3 (Report of Aircraft Debris on Island West of Ngeruktabel): A local Palauan
notified the P-MAN VI team of his seeing debris along the shoreline of western
Ngeruktabel and a preliminary search during P-MANVII failed to discover any
debris. However, the Palauan offered to search the area again and take us back.
The P-MAN IX operational goal is, after obtaining appropriate permissions,
to return and conduct an identification mission, only if the Palauan has found
debris to investigate. The team will notify HPO and JPAC of any findings.
- PT4 (Report of Aircraft Debris in mangroves of Northwestern Ngeremlengui): During P-MAN IV and P-MAN V, unsuccessful attempts were made to locate a US aircraft, possibly flown by a Maine aviator (MIA), in NW Ngeremlengui. New information obtained from our Japanese colleague in Tokyo suggests we may have been looking in the wrong mangrove area. The P-MAN IX operational goal is, after obtaining appropriate permissions, to return and, with a Palauan guide, conduct a search in the new location.
Many other American aircraft lost over Palau have never been found. Accordingly, the P-MAN IX team also requested that we be able to continue with its interviews with Palauans to seek information which might lead to additional crash sites, MIAs or POWs. Should such information prove sufficiently compelling, the team left open the option, as appropriate and with permission, to investigate such leads.
The team continued throughout the mission with its documentation effort in collecting meaningful GPS coordinates, photographs and videos to add to its historical record from prior missions. The P-MAN IX team stayed in contact with HPO, JPAC and NHC throughout its mission, reporting significant or unexpected findings occur. The P-MAN IX team provided HPO, JPAC and NHC with a preliminary summary of its findings before it left Palau.
P-MAN IX key events (each of which is described in a separate Attachment, all of which are listed under the Attachments tab in the menu at the top of each page):
- NEW (PT4): Finding, partially identifying and documenting one new American
crash site (a partial Corsair crash site, unknown BuNo, believed to be an FG-1A
flown by a Marine aviator who remains MIA) in a mangrove swamp on the west
coast of Ngeremlengui (Target PT4), 02MAR07; JPAC visit 08MAR07.
- NEW (No Target Number): Finding, partially identifying and documenting
one new aircraft (primarily engine), possibly SBD Dauntless, USN or USMC,
BuNo on a coral head named Chide, east of Carp Island, 03MAR07, JPAC
- NEW (No Target Number): Finding, identifying and documenting with
JPAC team one new Japanese aircraft fuel (drop)
tank (without associated
type unknown, on a small island off of Peleliu, JPAC visit 13MAR07.
- NEW (No Target Number): Finding, tentatively identifying and documenting
one new Japanese float (without associated aircraft located) in shallow
water on the edge of a coral head, , west of Aimeliik, 28FEB07.
- NEW (PT1-related): Finding, identifying and documenting one new
American tire/wheel assembly from a B-24 (most likely from B-24 ‘453) in mangrove
swamp in Airai, 28FEB07.
- NEW (No Target Number): Ancient findings in jungles of Ngeremlengui
and Ngatpang with Jolie Liston, 27FEB07.
- RE-VISIT: Extending USN Avenger (BuNo unknown) debris field
discovered during P-MAN VIII in jungle east of East Road on
Peleliu, JPAC Visit
- RE-VISIT: Possible POW/MIA site in Ngatpang jungle, 16FEB07,
JPAC Visit 07MAR07.
- NO FINDINGS: Re-evaluation of known Corsair site in Ngeremlengui
via 1946 IJA maps suggesting burial site is in known crash
- NO FINDINGS (NT3): Negative searches for Aimeliik Corsair,
17, 24FEB07, 26FEB07 (Helicopter), 02MAR07, JPAC Visit
- NO FINDINGS (NT4): Possible “blue aircraft” in Aimeliik
determined to be a boat wreck.
- NO FINDINGS (PT2): Negative searches on Ngeruktabel
for a blue aircraft on ridge line.
- NO FINDINGS: Negative search for a “Douglas” blue
aircraft near Medorn, JPAC Visit, 18FEB07.
- NEW INTERVIEWS: Many other American aircraft
lost over Palau have never been found. Accordingly,
videoed interviews (with permission) with Palauans
to seek information leading to additional crash
POWs. The team conducted
hours of interviews with Palauan elders and hunters
in Ngeremlengui, Ngatpang, Aimeliik, Airai, Meyuns,
and Peleliu. Brief
summaries of these interviews
will be included in the P-MAN IX final report.
- ADDITIONAL INTERACTIONS WITH JPAC:
• Side Scanning Sonar (SSS) Evaluation in Ngeremlengui Area, 10MAR07 (NO FINDINGS)
• Revisiting the FM-2 Wildcat in Airai, 12MAR07
• Hunting Down Rumors of Bones in Koror, 12MAR07 (NO FINDINGS)
• P-MAN IX Appreciation Night for JPAC, 11MAR07
- SITES IN 2007 HPO PROPOSAL NOT INVESTIGATED: The P-MAN IX team did
not visit the following targets as proposed in
our proposal document to HPO, for the following reasons:
• NEW TARGET 1 (US grave site, jungles, Ngeremlengui)
• NEW TARGET 4 (Report of Aircraft Debris, mangroves on Western Aimeliik)
• PT-3 (Report of Aircraft Debris on Island West of Ngeruktabel)
• Making one invited BentProp presentation at Sam’s Dive Tours, 06MAR07
• World-wide premier of Last Flight Home, 14MAR07
- REPORTING: Preliminary findings of P-MAN-IX to the Palau Historical
Preservation Office, Palauan Office of the President,
Office of Vice President, JPAC and NHC, 14MAR07.