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Mystery USA In Kunai Grass Near Tobera Airfield
Research by Justin Taylan

Sometimes a picture makes us long for a thousand words of explanation.
Was is it the attempt of a downed American aircrew to signal for help?
Was it a trick by the Japanese to lure aircraft over the area?
Will we ever know the truth?

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Brian Bennett shared with me a wartime aerial photograph of Tobera Aerodrome, near Rabaul, and asked me what I saw... At first, the photograph looked like any other WWII aerial photograph. A large black and white print of topography over a target zone. Like most, it appeared to be largely featureless, just empty forest, grass and ravines in the vicinity of a target. As I was about to give up, I noticed what he wanted me to see... a clearly visible "USA" and a "V" in a kunai field behind the airfield. Where did this marking come from?

The photographic coding on the bottom of the photo reads:
(17th Photo Squadron) (4B122-0) (4-V) (9) (6:18:1218) (24:20040) (Tobera AD N Brit.)

The 17th Photo Squadron was part of the 4th Photographic Reconnaissance and Mapping Group, 13th Air Force, operating F-5 Lightnings from Guadalcanal, Munda Airfield and Bougainville.

Henry Sakaida adds:
"The National Archives wrote: 'Our collection of Mission reports of the 17th Photo Squadron do not include reports for 18 June 1943 nor 18 June 1944.' "

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