= Pacific Ghosts =



South Pacific Aviation
Volume 6, Number 1 2003  Pages 24-25
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"War Plane Wrecks on CD"
by Robert Keith-Reid

The wrecks of war planes that 60 years ago battled over the islands of Melanesia are an enduring fascination for travelers in the region. Papua New Guinea is the primary graveyard for these relics. Previously unknown ones are still stumbled upon from time to time. Others can be found in the Solomon's Island and a few in Vanuatu.

Some of these ghosts of a violent past can be viewed on a CD-ROM, Pacific Ghosts, compiled, by dint of thousands of kilometers of travel to crash sites and in some cases input from veteran pilots who campaigned in the Pacific.

The CD is the work of Justin Taylan, whose grandfather helped build Corsair fighters and B-29 bombers, and Pacific historian, Michael Claringbould.

Taylan first went to Papua New Guinea to research a book. Surprised by the amount of war materials, aircraft wrecks, in particular, still to be seen there, he was infected with desire to learn their history and how and why they lie undisturbed until this day.

"The stories of these Pacific aircraft, their pilots and final missions are some of the more remarkable human-interest stories of World War II." he says. "So is the fact that many are preserved just as the war left them, cocooned by jungle regrowth, forgotten until now, and preserved by their very isolation/"

The CD features some historically significant wrecks, one being a Japanese Zero that was part of the force of the attack on Pearl Harbor and which was three months later shot down over Darwin, Australia.

Another is an F4F Wildcat, shot down by Japanese ace, Saburo Sakai, as the first American aircraft lost over Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and discovered and documented for the CD for the first time.

Others are a P-38 Lightinging with a record of seven victories over Japanese aircraft painted on its fuselage, the wreck of a B-17 and the story of its crew, and an amazingly intact A-20 bombers lost on the "Black Sunday" mission of April 16, 1944, when 37 American aircraft were lost on a single mission due to bad weather. It was the worst operational loss in American history.

The wreck of a Ki-43 Oscar was part of the Japanese Air Force's only mission to Guadalcanal. Other wrecks featured are some of the only known examples of several types of fighters and bombers left in the world, including Betty, Vals and Zeros.

Claringbould grew up in Papua New Guinea, where he spent weekends looking for wrecks.

In 1984, he was part of an RAAF team that salvaged an intact Douglas A-20 and between 1995 and 2001 he surveyed many crash sites in Vanuatu and the Solomons. He is an honorary member of the Zero Fighter pilot's association, proposed by Saburo Sakai after finding the Guadalcanal Wildcat. He is is a qualified pilot and restorer, and has the largest 5th AF database of Pacific aircraft losses and casualties.

Anyone who travels frequently to Melanesia will find Pacific Ghosts to be strongly evocative. It's bond to arouse in pilot who fly today over the forests that shroud so much of the region's islands the thought "What's still undiscovered down there?" Undoubtedly some great surprises.

Taylan runs the Pacific Wreck Database which has a huge community of participants and collaborators. It has assisted in the discovery of 'new' wreck sites, identification of others, returning artifacts such as photographs and dog tags and reuniting former comrades.

Pacific Ghosts CD-ROM www.pacificghosts.com

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