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by Edward T. Imparato
Howell Press 1995
Cover Price: $24.95
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A Pilot's Journey Through Headhunter Territory
This book is the personal memoir written by Major Edward T. Imparato detailing his trek into the Highlands of Papua New Guinea to visit B-24D Liberator 42-40352 to investigate the cause of the crash. The book is Imparato's memories of conversations and events during 1943 in New Guinea.
Assigned to the 374th Troop Carrier Group (TCG) in Port Moresby, the book begins with Imparato's recollections of a C-47 Dakota mission to drop supplies near Salamaua, escorted by P-38 Lightnings that resulted in the loss of C-47 piloted by Lt. Thomas Lane, assistant squadron operations officer. Also, he describes a Japanese air raid against Port Moresby.
Called to General Whitehead's headquarters atop a small hill, Imparato is tasked with a special mission, to investigate the crash of a B-24 Liberator deep in "uncontrolled territory" in the highlands of New Guinea. After selecting a group of including Lt. Bill Brady, Lewis Lock, Paul Reed and John "Mac" McGovern, the Americans departed aboard a C-47 and land at Bena Bena Airfield. The team is augmented by Australians Jack Elston and Gill Timms and prepares for the journey at ANGAU headquarters at Sigoiya and assembles a large group of locals to carry all their trade goods and supplies, plus loyal police.
Trekking along mountain trails and through kunai grass, the group walks to Korefego village where they witness a sing sing. The next day, they cross into "uncontrolled territory", the Australian administration's terms for areas where the local population is not under their control. Imparato and the Americans are worried about cannibalism, but the greatest danger is from tribal warfare. The book includes many candid impressions of New Guinea highlanders and customs, only a decade after Michael "Mick" Leahy and Danny Leahy discovered the highlands region.
After crossing the Dunantina River, the group passes Tunofi village where locals fire arrows at the group, killing one of the carriers. Past Amorika village, they reach the B-24 crash site and perform an investigation into the crash and locate and bury the remains of the crew members, identifying a structural failure in the tail section that was likely the cause of the unexplained crash. Although they investigate the possibility of cannibalism of the dead crew, the remains are inconclusive.
Again attacked by hostile locals, an arrow wounds Bill Brady and the group opens fire with their weapons. After capturing one of the hostiles, they are compelled to lay down their bows and arrows and the group begins the trek back to Bena Bena and is flown back to Port Moresby on May 17, 1943. Afterwards, the entire group was awarded the Legion of Merit for the mission by General Whitehead. Brady dies in the hospital from his arrow wound.
Author Imparato authored several other books related to his wartime experiences including 374th Troop Carrier Group and Rescue from Shangri-La.
Review by Justin Taylan
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