Swamp Ghost & Black Cat Pass B-17 Recovery

Discussion about the history of B-17E 'Swamp Ghost' and its recovery.

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Justin Taylan
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update to follow

Post by Justin Taylan » Sat May 27, 2006 8:20 pm

Dear PWD Forum,

This past month, the largest 'pacific wreck' story has broken with the salvage, and controversy realted to the B-17E known as Swamp Ghost.

I am planning full coverage of this news story and issue in the near future (early June). Look for the update online.

My name was brought into the news by one of the salvagers, and false acusations made against me.

I look forward to bringing you comprehensive coverage of this story, for readers to make their own opinions.

Yours in history
- Justin Taylan
Founder & Director
http://www.PacificWrecks.com

Daniel Leahy
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Sun May 28, 2006 7:16 pm

The Swamp Ghost saga has made PNG newspapers once again.

This from today's NATIONAL:
http://www.thenational.com.pg/052906/nation17.htm
Cabinet to decide fate of Swamp Ghost
By YEHIURA HRIEHWAZI

THE controversial Swamp Ghost, a WWII B17E bomber, is not going anywhere until a decision is made by the National Executive Council.

The acting director of the National Museum and Art Gallery Mr Simon Poraituk told The National last Friday that a cabinet submission was being prepared by Culture and Tourism Minister David Basua for NEC deliberation.

Meanwhile, Mr Poraituk said certain directions were issued to an American salvage crew of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress to hold it in Lae since it was airlifted out of a swamp in Oro province last month using a large helicopter. It was shipped to Lae where it is being dismantled to be taken to a museum in the US.

However, Mr Poraituk said he was directed by the Public Accounts Committee to prevent the removal of the war relic while it investigated how export clearance was granted.

The PAC will begin investigations on July 1. It also wants to find out who benefited from a payment of K320,000 for the bomber.

It was downed by the Japanese while returning to Port Moresby from an air raid in Rabaul in 1942.

The pilot made a calculated landing in a swamp covered by grass because he could not get the aircraft over the high Owen Stanley Range as it was losing power.

Mr Poraituk said the matter was now with Mr Basua, who would go to the NEC for directions.

Acting Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei also directed that all government bodies must stop the removal of the bomber until cabinet deliberated on the matter.

The bomber is at the Bismarck Marine wharf in Lae under tight security.

It is understood Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane and High Commissioner to New Zealand Bernard Narokobi were party to a decision of the National Museum and Art Gallery?s board of trustees to allow the bomber to be shipped to the US in their capacity as chairman and vice-chairman respectively. They are no longer on the board.

The new board, headed by Arthur Jawadimbari, recently endorsed the previous board?s decision after a briefing from the American salvage crew.
And this comes from today's POST COURIER:
http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20060529/news05.htm
?Ghost? kept under guard

CUSTOMS officers in Lae kept a close eye on controversial American World War II B-17 bomber dubbed Swamp Ghost over the weekend. The commissioner general of the Internal Revenue Commission David Sode had instructed that no export permit be given pending the outcome of a Public Accounts Committee inquiry on July 1. The war plane was to be shipped to the United States but the PNG Government had intervened and it is now sitting at the Lae Bismarck Maritime Wharf. The plane was allowed to leave the country under an agreement signed in 1999 between the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation in the United States and the custodian of the aircraft, the National Museum and Art Gallery. This has permitted American Alfred Hagen and Robert Greinert to remove the plane early this month from the Agiambo swamps in Northern Province where it had crash-landed 64 years ago during the World War II. But the plane had survived the crash and is fully intact. Officers at the wharf say the plane was moved from its original spot on the wharf on Thursday and shifted further inside the wharf to give space to the containers off-loaded from incoming ships. The former curator of the war museum brand of the national museum and present director of the Kokoda-Buna Historical Foundation, Maclaren Hiari said the plane was the World War II?s rarest bomber. ?The Swamp Ghost is a highly-regarded prized war relic in the aircraft archaeology world particularly in Australia, New Zealand and USA ... according to my close consultation with former crew members of the aircraft, leading international aircraft archaeologists, aviation historians and aviation museums and organisations,? he said. But that contradicts the view from the National Museum and Art Gallery, whose acting director Simon Poraituk said the plane was worth only ?K12,000?. Mr Hiari said the swamp ghost was the oldest Boeing-built B-17 in existence and the only remaining example of a B-17E model flying fortresses remaining in the world ? one is near Black Cat Gap on the Kuber Ranger near Wau in Morobe Province while the third is in Greenland covered with ice. But ti iss till intact, he said. He said for the board of trustees of the museum to approve the salvaging and restoration of swamp ghost did not help the Government?s efforts to restore the existing war collections in the country.
Daniel Leahy
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Tue May 30, 2006 7:15 pm

This from today's POST COURIER:
http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20060531/news14.htm
?Swamp Ghost? to remain in PNG for inquiry

THE AMERICAN warplane B-17E that crash-landed in the swamps of Northern Province is sitting safely at the Lae Bismarck Maritime Wharf. The plane was to be shipped to the United States but government intervention prevented the shipment, pending a Public Accounts Committee inquiry on July 1. The Internal Revenue Commission will not issue an export permit pending the inquiry. PAC is responsible for protecting public funds and state properties. The plane was allowed to leave the country under an agreement signed in 1999 between the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation in the United States and the custodian of the aircraft, the National Museum and Art Gallery. This had permitted American Alfred Hagen and Australian Robert Greinert to remove the plane early this month from the Agiambo Swamps in Oro Province where it had crashed during World War II. The public was told to keep a close eye on the plane incase the two expatriates sneaked it out of the country. Meanwhile, Member for Rigo Anderson Vele said it was a ?greedy decision? by the museum board of trustees and its management to have the plane salvaged and restored overseas when it should have been left where it was where it would be used to promote toursim. Mr Vele said investigations should be aimed at disciplining those responsible for the decision.
Daniel Leahy
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Tue May 30, 2006 8:20 pm

...And this from today's NATIONAL:
http://www.thenational.com.pg/053106/nation2.htm
Union: Swamp Ghost better off in America

PNG should allow the Swamp Ghost to be shipped to the US because it does not have the financial capacity to maintain the war relic, the PNG Trade Union Congress said yesterday.
The country has an appalling record of maintaining war relics and historical sites, general secretary John Paska said in a statement.
?We have assessed the tourism, legal and sovereignty issues surrounding the Swamp Ghost and consider that much of the reaction had been swayed by sentimental and political considerations rather than practical realities,? he said.
He said the aircraft had little economic and tourism value in efforts to attract more tourists to the country.
?Keeping the aircraft in America will add more value to the tourist industry here than if the Swamp Ghost remained in PNG.?
Mr Paska said the plane had been lying in the swamp since World War II and ?we have never had the political will or the capacity to uplift it for repair and installation as a war relic for public display?.
?Hundreds, if not thousands, of war relics have been allowed to corrode and lose their value throughout the country.
?The gun stations on top of Paga Hill have no apparent value. The Old House of Assembly was contemptuously allowed to crumble and rot away.
?The museum itself does not receive the necessary budgetary support and is badly in need of renovation and a facelift,? he said, and warned that if the situation continued, many artifacts in the museum would deteriorate beyond recognition.
?Our record with respect to the upkeep and maintenance of war relics, artifacts, museum specimens, heritage buildings and monuments is atrocious to the point of disbelief.
?With such a shameful record, how can we muster the audacity to cry foul about the shipment of the Swamp Ghost to America when our record shows that we simply cannot and will not look after it??
And another article from today's NATIONAL:
http://www.thenational.com.pg/053106/nation15.htm
US bomber saved from rotting in PNG swamp, say salvagers

SALVAGERS blocked from shipping a World War II American B-17E Flying Fortress bomber, the Swamp Ghost, to the US said they are saving it from rotting in the remote swamp where it crash landed in 1942.
A US-Australian recovery team of wartime aircraft enthusiasts this month retrieved the bomber from the Agaiembo Lake in Northern province.
The Swamp Ghost is now on the docks in Lae, its wings dismantled in preparation for shipment.
But the PNG Government had ordered officials to prevent the plane?s export by Alfred Hagen, of Philadelphia.
He led and financed the K1.024 million expedition to lift the plane out of the swamp by helicopter and onto a barge for the journey to Lae.
In February 1942, the plane crash landed in the swamp after being damaged by Zero fighters during its bombing run over the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul after a long flight from Australia.
Acting Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei said last week the aircraft was an important relic from PNG?s war history and the government would review the shipment approval by the National Museum board of trustees.
Robert Greinert, who led the six-man contingent from Australia?s Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS), told AAP an export permit had been granted following full approval from the museum.
Around K300,000 had been set aside to be shared equally by the museum and local landowners and it was hoped the government would approve the shipment of the aircraft this week, he said.
After 64 years in the swamp, some parts of the largely aluminium plane were in fair condition but others were starting to corrode badly, Greinert said.
?It?s like cancer and this one is in bad need of chemotherapy. Another five years and it would be beyond redemption.?
PNG had its hands full as a developing nation and could not properly preserve or restore old aircraft, Greinert said.
There are more than 3,000 wartime aircraft wrecks across PNG. ? AAP
Image

A welder working to prepare the wing of the Swamp Ghost for shipment from Lae to the United States for restoration. The B-17 Flying Fortress was salvaged from a swamp where it crash landed in 1942 after an encounter with Japanese Zero fighters. Salvagers said the aircraft would just rot in the swamp but PNG authorities have held up the aircraft's export citing concerns a piece of PNG's war heritage is being lost. ? AAPpic
Daniel Leahy
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Wed May 31, 2006 4:00 am

Hi "Slapper",

In response to a couple of your queries....

The stories listed on this forum are only those published in PNG newspapers recently - Whether those reports tell the whole story or the correct story is another matter and not for me to discuss. Each story has been posted no matter what - Whether they are in line with my views/understanding of the issue or not.

As Justin has mentioned in a previous post (made on 28-May-2006, above) the story will feature in the next Pacific Wreck Database update sometime in early June.
Daniel Leahy
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Post by DaveM2 » Wed May 31, 2006 5:49 am

Slapper

Why should the people directly involved answer your questions in public?. Perhaps you should state your involvement and interest in what is happening before you can expect any response by anyone else?

regards
Dave

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Post by Daniel Leahy » Wed May 31, 2006 7:51 pm

This just in from today's PNG press...

From THE NATIONAL:
http://www.thenational.com.pg/060106/nation17.htm
Board lets go of bomber

By JULIA DAIA BORE
THE National Museum and Art Gallery board of trustees decided yesterday that the controversial World War II fighter bomber, Swamp Ghost, be exported to the United States.
A special meeting by the board in Port Moresby defied a recent direction from the permanent parliamentary Public Accounts Committee that the plane stays in PNG pending an inquiry set for July 1.
The Swamp Ghost, which had been sitting in the Agaiembo Lake where it crash-landed for 64 years after it was crippled in a raiding mission in Rabaul in 1942, will now go to its new owners, Aero Archaeology Limited (AAL).
National museum board chairman Arthur Jawodimbari yesterday said they could not reject an agreement signed with Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation (MARC), because it would be legally and financially costly to the state.
Speaking to reporters after the board deliberations, Mr Jawodimbari said the initial interest by MARC to sign the agreement for ownership of the Swamp Ghost was bought out by AAL ? a Pennsylvanian firm ? in December 2001.
So, the new owners, rightfully, are the AAL.
The original agreement, signed between the PNG museum and MARC in June 1999, allowed for MARC to salvage the B-17E Flying Fortress. If the five-year execution date was to expire, it was also agreed that the agreement will automatically be renewed for another five years.
Mr Jawodimbari said as it was, that agreement remains valid to 2009.
?The US$100,000 (K301,000) held in an Escrow account at Westpac Port Moresby, according to the agreement, will be divided 50% to the state, 25% to the Oro provincial government and 25% to the landowners,? Mr Jawodimbari said.
Another from today's NATIONAL:
http://www.thenational.com.pg/060106/nation18.htm
Villager: Retain Swamp Ghost

A LANDOWNER of the Agaiembo Lake, where the Swamp Ghost had remained after it crashed 64 years ago until it was retrieved last month, is insisting that the B-17E Flying Fortress bomber remained in PNG.
Ian Jijiroba said PNG authorities and the Americans should rebuild the plane and leave it where it is.
The plane, now in Lae, was yesterday given permission to be shipped to the US by the National Museum and Art Gallery board of trustees.
Mr Jijiroba slammed fellow Oro men Maclaren Hiari and Joachim Olai for not doing enough to ensure the plane remained, and urged them not to make media statements about the issue.
He urged those people with much interest in the WWII bomber to return the plane to the swamp.
?Sure, we may not have done anything to restore it but, by the same token, we have not been reckless and have not destroyed the plane by stripping it!?
This from today's POST COURIER:
http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20060601/news07.htm
NEC aware of Swamp Ghost salvage plan

THE National Executive Council in 2003 was aware of the decision to have the American warplane B-17E ? dubbed ?Swamp Ghost?? salvaged and restored overseas. Acting director of the National Museum and Art Gallery Simon Poraituk said this following the direction made two weeks ago from Petroleum and Energy Minister and deputy Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei, who was the acting Prime Minister at the time, to review the agreement made by the former board of trustees of the museum and the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation of USA in 1999. The Swamp Ghost is sitting at the Lae wharf after it was removed by American Alfred Hagen and Australian Robert Greinert from the Agiambo Swamps in Northern Province. The former board of trustees was led by its president and now Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane and deputy president and now Papua New Guinea High Commissioner to New Zealand Bernard Narokobi. In June 2, 2001, MARC signed an agreement with Aero Archaeology and handed over the salvaging and restoration of the Swamp Ghost to AA. Mr Poraituk said a submission was made to former Culture and Tourism Minister Nick Kuman who presented it to the NEC to approve the decision.
Daniel Leahy
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Post by DaveM2 » Thu Jun 01, 2006 6:35 am

Slapper

No one is denying your right to ask questions, but you can not expect people that are in legal or confidential discusions to post sensitive information on public forums...if you were involved in an ongoing and current investigation, would you answer any questions before the case is resolved, especially when they are asked by a total stranger?.
Like the rest of us, you will have to wait until the informattion is released, and if your Govt. works the same in PNG as here you can acquire the appropraite documents under the 'freedom of information act' which should give the facts for your research as to what your Govenments role is in this saga.
As far as private individuals are concerned, they may or may not tell what they know, that is up to them.
I certainly do hope that yourself and people like you can eventually get a system set up that benefits both the PNG people, foreigners, and the relics themselves, before it is all too late.

regards
Dave

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followups related to this developing story

Post by Justin Taylan » Thu Jun 01, 2006 6:36 am

Slapper (sorry, do not have your real name),

This forum is for debate about all aspects of history and issues related to "Pacific Wrecks". There will be full coverage on the PacificWrecks website about Swamp Ghost coming soon.

To answer your prior questions: I first met (the salvager involved with Swamp Ghost and many other wrecks) Robert Greinert in 2000. I have never worked for him or with him. I have sought to find out more about his salvage activities and collection to accurately represent both http://www.pacificwrecks.com/restore/au ... /hars.html

I agree with you, certain allegations seem to be designed to deflect from the real issues: tourism, buying & selling relics, issuing of permits, selling price of the bomber, etc.

I encourage you to read the published news articles for the facts as reported. It seems, the news out of PNG related to this wreck is still developing. I do not think anyone is clear what exactly will happen next.

My statement? "Debate about the salvage of 'Swamp Ghost' should have happened before it was removed. It is unfortunate that such an important issues arose only afterwards. That wreck was very unique, historic and important. It was the last fully intact airplane relic in situ. It was not falling apart, nor was it damaged by locals (the only things removed were done by outsiders (guns, instruments, etc). I visited this wreck several times, a most amazing experience. Its too bad others will not have a chance to visit this wreck as the war left it. Salvaged, it looses some of its allure to me."
- Justin Taylan
Founder & Director
http://www.PacificWrecks.com

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Swamp Ghost

Post by Damian Waters » Thu Jun 01, 2006 7:19 am

Slapper,
It sounds like to me that you have made your mind up about Justin already and are looking for people to merely confirm your suspicions. Being an aviation historian and enthusiast myself I have had the pleasure of meeting Justin and I also find it highly unlikely that he has done anything improper in relation to Swamp Ghost. He has done much to promote interest in the Pacific Theatre of the war and to commemorate those who fought for our freeedom. He is involved in many areas and this is how he is able to bring you new and interesting developments in the industry. This issue isn't about business in New Guinea nor corruption etc, it is about exporting one particular item in an attempt to preserve history before it is lost and that can hardly be called the sort of business you are refering to. There could definitely be an argument for it remaining in New Guinea, or even Australia as it served from here as well. However we should just be grateful that there are those that are saving this beautiful aircraft for future generations. I think it will cost the restorers far more than it will ever make them in profit. If the New Guinea Government had been so concerned over this wreck it should have done something before this point. It is once again a case of crying foul when someone has finally had the courage to do something that should have been done a long time ago. The New Guinea Government has a poor record of preservation even with items gifted to them in a restored condition. It seems a case of if I can't have it I don't want you too either. Not very noble or worthy sentiments. Where it ends up shouldn't matter at all. I will probably never see it in person and I am sure most New Guineans will either but that is the same situation as it was in the swamp. Letting the Americans have it will I am sure promote more good feeling and interest in tourism to New Guinea than this current commotion will achieve.
I feel that I am not biased as I grew up in New Guinea in the early 70's and think it is probably the most beautiful country around. The landscape is stunning and the people are absolutely wonderful too. But that doesn't mean that I agree with the governments line on this. This isn't New Guinea bashing. We are all interested in the outcome of this but I don't consider it necessary to bait Justin in that fashion just to satisfy your anger over this. As others have said lets see what unfolds before we start slinging to many arrows.

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B-17

Post by Dan King » Sat Jun 03, 2006 11:14 am

There are a dozen B-17s around in the States. I took a flight on one last year out of the Chino Air Museum.

However, I don't beleive PNG has many B-17s laying around, does it?

The $100,000 the Govt. got for selling the plane might seem big at the time, but the loss in tourism over the years will be bigger. What was the rush to salvage?

I am one of the tourists who had considered going to PNG to see this plane but now will never get that chance.

I'd rather have it in the jungle where it belongs than fixed, patched up with new parts (making it a bastard) and shining in the sun like a movie-prop. There are already enough B-17s in museums in the US, England, Australia, Canada etc... they should have left this lady alone.

My 2 cents.

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Post by DaveM2 » Sat Jun 03, 2006 8:26 pm

Can you let me know where the B-17s are in Australia and Canada? Might pay to do a little research first me thinks!
As far a the 'rush' goes, once more a little reasearch will show this attempt began in 2001 and there have been others since the seventies. There are also another intact and better condition B-17 in PNG, so you can continue to plan your tourist trip, while the many thousands of people who will never get to a PNG swamp can enjoy the Swamp Ghost ; hopefully in a conserved state rather than rebuilt.

Dave

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Post by sbd » Sat Jun 03, 2006 9:42 pm

"I'd rather have it in the jungle where it belongs than fixed"...

ah, so thats where aircraft come from. they grow in the jungle!

if that plane sat there another 10 years there would be nothing left of it. now it can be displayed forever. and the only reason for 30+ years of delay in the recovery was the greed of the png land owners, governments on all levels and people telling the people a wreck is worth 10 million dollars.

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B-17

Post by Dan King » Sun Jun 04, 2006 8:31 am

"Airplanes grow in the jungle"?

Sarcasm doesn't help. If someone has a different opinion then they are to be held in contempt?

There is the wreckage of a cashed BETTY at the Chino Air Museum that is held in a state of conservation. It has been placed in a mock swamp with fake palm trees etc..

It should have stayed in the jungle, but....at least they didn't rebuild it and make it look like a brand new plane.

I can see where greed played a part in the delay of the wreck's salvage. Too bad there wasn't more greed, maybe the deal would have fallen through and the wreck would have stayed where it was to help the locals with tourism and their livelyhood for years to come.

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Post by foose » Tue Jun 06, 2006 4:32 am

seems to me that tourism to the swamp ghost was fairly cumbersome and all but non-exsistent... last i heard since the plane was in a swamp miles away from the nearest town the only way to it was either by river and a hike or a helicopter.. now add to the mix that getting to PNG and having to make your way via charter or boat or whatever to the town that you start from and it seems to me that by salvaging it they not only preserve the condition of the plane but make it more accessible to people without the financial means to travel halfway across the world... i personally think that salvage isnt a bad idea but keep the plane in a mock crash exibit and keep it as historically acurate as possible.. i would bring justin in on the museum end with all the pics, video and interviews hes done with the crew that would make for one hell of a museum exibit..
Evil will continue to triumph as long as great men stand by and do nothing! -edmund burke-

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