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  Ki-49-II Helen Manufacture Number 3220  
JAAF
? Sentai

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RAN 1944
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Ray Fairfield 1972
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Bruce Adams 1975
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Richard Leahy 1984
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Phil Bradley 1997
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Justin Taylan 2003

Aircraft History
Built by Nakajima during the end of June 1943. Uncoded serial number 220. Assigned to the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF). Likely assigned to either the 7th Sentai or 61st Sentai Possibly, this bomber was operating as a transport aircraft.

Wartime History
Disabled or abandoned at the western end of Alexishafen Airfield (No. 1). The nose section, forward of the cockpit was severely damaged, probably by a parafrag bomb explosion from above. There is also damage on other parts of the fuselage.

Wreckage
On April 26, 1944 Alexishafen Airfield was liberated by the Australian Army's 30th Battalion. This bomber was captured in a disabled condition. Afterwards, Allied Technical Intelligence Unit (ATIU) investigated and photographed the bomber. The earliest known wreck photos date from late early 1944.

Over the decades, the nearby jungle grew up around the aircraft and the skin suffered corrosion during seasonal grass fires, but as late as the middle 1990s traces of the Hinomaru markings and stencils remained visible. The condition of the wreck changed very little in fifty years until the early 1990s. Visitors for over a half century were respectful of the wreck.

This bomber is one of the last known and largely intact Ki-49 Helen wrecks left in the world. Often mistakenly identified as a "Betty Bomber" in tourist literature or by local guides. Tourists and visitors often visited and photographed this wreckage, due to the easy accessibility off the North Coast Road.

During the late 1990's, the nose section was broken up, and later removed.  The outer wing panels disappeared, and were likely scraped. Another sad happening was a natural happening when a nearby tree fell onto the fuselage, denting the rear fuselage and nearly severing off the tail.

Today, this bomber is still one of the most popular war wreck sites visited by tourists from Madang. It is likely one of the most photographed war wrecks in Papua New Guinea.

References
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks page 62 (lower), 77
Rust In Peace page 32, 57
National Geographic "Ghosts of War in the South Pacific" page 552
Pacific Ghosts CD-ROM profiles this aircraft
"Nakajima Ki-49 Serial Numbers" by Jim Long for production data
Thanks to Charles Darby for manufacture number

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Last Updated
January 31, 2018

 

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