Recently Recovered Pearl Harbor Plane Solves A Decades-Old Puzzle
Decades after one of the bloodiest wars in history, ruins from the gruesome fighting still laid in shambles all over the jungles of Papua New Guinea. That was, at least, until one team finally dared to take it back. These adventurers had time, the elements, and the law stacked against them. And the further they trekked, the more it looked like they were destined for a crash of their own.
The jungles of Papua New Guinea aren’t too friendly to outsiders. One group of men learned that fact the hard way, and they never forgot the experience. However, it all came rushing back to them decades later.
In early 1942, the United States had recently entered World War II. The Air Force sent a B-17 Flying Fortress on a bombing run across the Japan-controlled Pacific. That mission, unfortunately for everyone aboard, didn’t go quite as planned.
Due to a critical miscalculation, the aircraft ran out of fuel over Papua New Guinea. Everyone aboard knew that, in foreign territories like this, there were no friendly airstrips. They had to brace for a crash landing.
The plane dipped toward the island and slammed into the ground. Miraculously, barely any of the crew members were injured by the impact, and they soon found out why: instead of landing on solid earth, they careened straight into a swamp.
With the help of some local tribesmen, the Air Force squad made it out of Papua New Guinea alive. Though they escaped, the crew did have to leave their precious plane behind. They figured it would simply become part of the island landscape.
One routine Australian military exercise in 1972, however, brought the Flying Fortress back to life. The soldiers stumbled upon the tail jutting out of the feral swamp and confirmed with their American allies that it was the lost plane from all those years ago.
The Air Force was relieved to learn the final destination of the famous plane, which earned the nickname “Swamp Ghost.” They couldn’t do anything with it, though local Papuans made a decent amount of money showing tour groups around the crash site.
Alfred wasn’t alone in his mission either. He gained the financial backing of Dave Tallichet. Known as the “Father of the Theme Restaurant,” the entrepreneur collected classic planes and couldn’t help but be intoxicated by the call of the Swamp Ghost.
Together, Alfred and David organized an expedition to locate and possibly seize the legendary plane. When local authorities bristled at their bold objective, they realized they’d have to find it on their own.
Since the Swamp Ghost became somewhat of a regional attraction, Alfred didn’t take too long to find the crash site. He had a full team of salvagers and cameramen to oversee the process. But that’s where the encouraging news stopped.
After generations in the swamp, the Flying Fortress was in sorry shape. Its metal hull had badly decayed, plus a number of wild species made the plane into their home. Even a diehard like Alfred wondered if this was a lost cause.