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Damaged pilot's control yoke from B-25G "Coral Princess" 42-64977

Stan Gajda
"In mid-1983 I told my son that there was a bomber wreck in the pinnacles near the 127mm guns. One day when I came home from work he was waiting for me with the news that he had seen the wreckage. We immediately set off and he led me to an area where the undercarts were. The first thing I saw was the perforated outer tube of a .50 cal gun sticking out of the dirt. We dug that out and it was one of the nose saddle guns which still had ammo feeding into it. The gun weighed about 80lbs and it was one of the hardest labor jobs of my life to carry that gun out of the pinnacles and get it home. I still get the shivers when I think about it. I dismantled the gun and repaired the crash damage good enough so it would cycle again. Later I had a dispute with some other fellows who reckoned it was "their wreck".

I sent a six cubic meter crate of Zero components that I sent to the AWM in 1984. Also included was a complete and very nice horizontal stabilizer from the same B-25, complete with framework. This I found in the bush with tree growing through it. It was near the original grave site of two crew where the tail had landed. The tail section was gone before my time there though.

You must ask them (the AWM) about that control surface. The engines are still at the wreck site, with the Hamilton hubs still on them. The prop blades had been pinched by being sawn off. although two blades were still at the site in 1984 but gone by 1993. Each had different colored bands at the  tip. This wreck is very interesting. In the wreckage I found three definite 25mm hits so they must have kept shooting at it as it came down. There is still one live 500lb bomb at the wreck site. It was long time puzzle why the wreckage parts were so removed from one another because now it is deep in-accessible pinnacles, some thirty feet deep or more.

It was not until I got hold of US target photos that I discovered that in 1944 the area of the crash had not been fully mined out and the main wreckage fell right on the edge of the then-existing diggings. There are a very large amount of fragments in the already-dug area and the other stuff was just dumped down the pinnacles when mining resumed after the war and eventually it became in-accessible. The wings and engines are maybe 50yds from the impact area and were just dumped, causing further damage. The wings have Jap writing scratched on the paint put there by the gun crews, some of it is obscene I believe. The wing paint is still good and the star and bars can be seen. The engines are the later model with steel crankcases and individual exhaust stubs. Near these wings was some wreckage partly blocked by a rock fall. We cleared this and it was the nose floor with the complete nosewheel assembly and part of the port side paneling. This had the bombing missions and the destroyer from Wotje painted on it. In 1995 we got about 20 Nauruans to come in to this site and we manhandled this large and heavy section as near as we could to an access area. Then we got the 65-ton Omega crane with a 150ft reach to maneuver it's hook into nearby position. By swinging the hook we got it to reach the nose section and we hooked up and lifted it out. What a marvelous series of photos that would have made! But I have none. This nose section was put into the same shed where the Zero wreck was kept. What happened to it since I wouldn't know, not good I would think because the Zero was chucked outside after I left. The 75mm gun was also down inside a circular hollow pinnacle with only the muzzle showing. This was lifted out in 1984 by NPC engineers by running a cable out and pulling it tight. Then attaching the gun to the cable on a roller and pulling it up to Command Ridge and then to the workshops. I left Nauru later in 1984 and the gun went missing. For years I was blamed for pinching it, which I did not. One day a Nauruan died and when his stuff was cleared they found the gun in his shed. It went to his nephew who mounted it on a really rough mount outside his place which is beside the airfield runway. His name was Tony Adao and he later became the Justice Minister. The gun is still there I reckon and it looks ok. Not all the crew were recovered, most likely some bodies were consumed in the fire. The area of dense wreckage and fragments should be properly and scientifically excavated. I have been in there a few times but did not excavate. In pieces the whole front of the plane is in there up to about the rear of the bomb doors. Today with more knowledge and appreciation of things like this I would very much like to have another look in there. I recall one fragment I got out and was at the museum had the planes full serial number stenciled on it - 4264977. Another piece (also with the AWM) had the name Bob Spurling and "...arawa Doll" pencilled on it on the inside. Spurling was one of the original crew and did not fly in that plane that day. The B-25 went unserviceable as the raid was organized but was repaired in time for take-off so the regular crew were re-allocated to various other planes taking part in the raid and they all saw their plane go down. The story is that when these new planes arrived in Hawaii when the squadron was being deployed to the Gilbert (Kiribati) Islands, the crew were musing about what they were going to call their plane. Spurling wrote 'Tarawa Doll" on the inside near his station. Obviously this did not stick and the plane was instead called the "Coral Princess" The bomber group historian wanted a piece of this plane so one day I went in and amongst some rocks found a piece of skin with absolutely perfect olive drab paint on the outside and very clean bare metal on the inside with 'ST-2024' ink-stamped on the inside denoting the material used. I mailed it to them but never received a reply or acknowledgement I always thought that they reckoned I had sent them a phony relic but it was the best piece I had ever found in there."
Credit: AWM REL/20075 Date:

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