We finally arrived after two days of travel and a missed connection. We were scheduled to stay one night in Guam but ended up spending a night in Tokyo on Delta/NWA’s tab due to the missed connection. The thirteen hour flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo was stuffed with screaming kids. Whenever we fell asleep another baby would start crying. We were so glad to finally land and get away from all the crying babies on the plane regardless of missing our connecting flight. While waiting for the plane in Guam we joined up with Mark Noah from History Flight, Matt Holly a professional diver and Matt Benson professional sonar and mag operator. When we arrived in Yap a number of familiar faces were at the airport. It was good to see some many familiar faces from our work on Yap over the years. When we arrived at the hotel our deep diving friend Brian was at the small bar with a friend. It was ironic to run into Brian after only a few minutes on the island. Brian agreed to help dive some of the deep sites throughout the week. While we can only dive sites around 130-150, Brian can dive to 400-500 feet using a re-breather.
Unfortunately Mark and Matt’s equipment was still in customs and the earliest they could get it out was Monday morning. We decided to do two dives in the morning in the general area of where we think the B-24 may be found. Both dives were very pretty but we didn’t see anything plane related and we didn’t find the Japanese ammo dump.
In the afternoon, Tom from the YVB took us around to an area where Pat believes Lt. Zack Lillard’s Hellcat may have crashed. We also went back to the Lt. Girvis Haltom Corsair site and found a few additional pieces of his Corsair including the cockpit area. Tom showed us an area where the memorial sign will be posted and the pieces of Haltom’s Corsair will be displayed.
We stopped by Alex the Russian’s house and had an interesting and colorful conversation. Alex has been on the island for 80+ years and worked with the Japanese during the war. He provided some new information about his visits to the crash sites during the war and after the war. Alex continues to say that he saw a large bomber sink off the second channel during the war.
Today was the first day of classes. We had 12 very interested students. The session lasted about 2.5 hours, which is longer than we expected. The participants were very interested in the information we had to share. Pat did a great presentation with just the right amount of humor to keep things light.
After class we went to visit an excavation site where some bullets were found. While we were there a little boy came up to Pat and handed him an object which we later discovered was a Japanese hand grenade. The police will be contacted to safely remove the hand grenade. We dove in early afternoon but the visibility was not good. Mark and Matt were having trouble getting the mag software up and running. We only dove once this afternoon.
Class went well this morning. We lost a few participants but gained a few too so we again had about 12 interested participants. Mark, Matt and Matt spent the morning out in the boat off the reef running the equipment in search patterns. They marked a number of promising sites with buoys to come back and dive later. Brian Greene joined them for one deep dive but they did not see a plane. We went out in the afternoon and dove one of the targets in deep water and then went back in the harbor and pulled the mag past the Hellcat we found the other year. We also scanned the back area of the harbor to see if we could find anything else. We had a solid hit on the mag so Pat went down to with one of the guides in poor visibility. They could only see a few feet and had to use the mag cable to descend and ascend.
In the morning Pat completed his presentations to the class and made arrangements for the group to go out and visit the individual WWII tour sites on Thursday and Friday. The class and presentations have gone well this week. The group is very interested in the history. Pat was asked to participate in a radio interview on
Mark, Matt and Matt once again spent the morning out in the boat off the reef running the equipment in search patterns and marking targets. We joined them at noon to dive. Pat did two dives but I only did one. My ear got plugged up and on my ascent the pain was almost unbearable. I decided a second dive for me would have been pretty stupid. The first dive was down to 140 ft before we could see the bottom. The bottom was over 200+. We followed the bottom towards the channel wall without finding the plane. We then moved between the channels for the second dive and found the Japanese ammo dump. The American’s dumped all the Japanese guns and ammo off the channel at the end of the war. One of the elders remembers seeing a B-24 near the ammo dump off the reef years ago.
When we returned to the hotel Tom from the YVB took us back to the mangrove to see a piece of wreckage he found near the site we visited on Sunday. We had to use a rope to get down the hill and into the mangrove. The parts were definitely American Navy plane parts. A large section of the left wing was at the site. Mark was able to identify a number of the parts on the wing. We took a small wing spar up to the Cox Hellcat site and it matched up perfectly therefore we know this new site is a Hellcat and likely the site of Lt. Zack Lillard. He was the only Hellcat pilot lost near the airfield. This was a very exciting discovery. We need to continue searching the area to find additional pieces of the plane. It’s also possible that the rest of the wreckage is buried under the spot we found the wing.
This morning we went out to dive some of the targets that Matt’s mag had identified. Matt, Mark, Pat, myself and our guide Gordon made a plan to dive to 140 see what we could and then follow a compass course. When I was at about 130 I started to feel panicky and knew I couldn’t go any deeper. I started my ascent but the panicky feeling got worse. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it was going to burst and my skin felt like I had broke out in a cold sweat. The worst part about this was that I had an incredible urge to yank my regulator out of my mouth. That would have been the end. I focused all my energy on breathing slower and thinking about our daughter Genna. Luckily Pat noticed that I was heading up and he caught up to me to keep me from going up too fast. I can honestly say that I have never been so scared in my life.
Matt and Mark continued with the dive and found a 1000 lb. bomb which is consistent with the size bombs carried on a B-24.
In the afternoon, Pat and Mark took the class to a couple of the sites and Mark was able to answer questions regarding the aircraft. Everyone seemed to enjoy the opportunity to see these sites and learn more about them. The Yap Visitors Bureau held a joint reception for our group and a Japanese woman at Trader’s Ridge. It was very nice and all the students came. It was very nice to be able to chat with everyone is a casual atmosphere.
This morning the weather was a bit nasty – lots of cloud cover and on and off rain. Since I was still a little spooked from my dive yesterday I decided to stay at the hotel while the rest of the group went to dive in the area that the bomb was found.
This afternoon Pat is going to be interviewed by the Yap radio station. After the interview will be take the students to visit the rest of the sites and then we will hand out the certificates of completion.
Pat and the group found three additional 1000 lb bombs, a machine gun and other pieces of wreckage in the channel this morning. This could be one of the American B-24 crash sites.
Posts: 683 | From: Cameron, Wisconsin | Registered: Dec 2004
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