JPAC Deploys to Fiji

Details about those listed as missing or killed in the Pacific, including current search operations.

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Daniel Leahy
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JPAC Deploys to Fiji

Post by Daniel Leahy » Tue Jun 20, 2006 4:11 pm

This was released by JPAC on June 16th:
http://www.jpac.pacom.mil/PressReleases06/PR2006-22.htm
JOINT POW/MIA ACCOUNTING COMMAND (JPAC)
Public Affairs (808) 448-1937
public_affairs@jpac.pacom.mil

RELEASE NO. #06-22
June 16, 2006

JPAC TEAM DEPARTS HAWAII FOR FIJI

HICKAM AFB, HAWAII ? A JPAC recovery team left this week for Fiji for approximately 30 days to excavate a site associated with a service member missing from World War II.

The loss relates to a P-39 Airacobras aircraft crash. On April 22, 1942, two P-39s departed for a wartime sortie. Ten minutes later, the mission was called off and the pilots were ordered to return to base.

Only one aircraft returned. The other pilot was never seen nor heard from again.

In August 2004, a local hunter discovered wreckage and ammunition associated with the missing P-39 deep in the jungles of north Suva, Fiji.

JPAC investigation team members subsequently surveyed the site and recommended that the command dispatch a recovery team to excavate the site. Items recovered from the site will be returned to the JPAC laboratory for analysis in hopes of resolving the mystery of the missing Airacobras pilot.
Does anyone have details of the aircraft and/or pilot in question?
Last edited by Daniel Leahy on Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Dave Homewood
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Post by Dave Homewood » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:09 am

Daniel,

I cannot help regarding the pilot or exact aircraft but here is a report from 31st of August 2004 when it was discovered, which I copied down from NZ Teletext:

Pig Hunter stumbles across wreck

A Fijian pig-hunter has discovered the remains of what is believed to be a World War II fighter aircraft, police said.

The hunter from the central highlands of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu found parts of an aircraft including a machine-gun belt holding 10 rounds, said spokesman Mesake Koroi.

Historical records show that on April 22, 1942, a P-39 Airacobra flying out of Nadi airfield on Viti Levu never returned from a flight."


So that gives you a base which will probably narrow down the unit, and with the date, you may be able to discover who he was.

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Post by mcmillan_p » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:33 am

I think it is this one..

From April 1942 Accident Reports

Date Aircraft Type Serial Number Home Base D Pilot Country US State Location


420422 P-39 41-7104 Fiji Islands 5 Blose, James W FIJ Nausari Arpt, Fiji Islands

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Post by Daniel Leahy » Wed Jun 21, 2006 5:01 pm

Thanks for those updates.

1/Lt James W Blose (0-427506) of the 70th FS, 347th FG is listed on the ABMC website as MIA on April 22, 1942. The aircraft is not listed as having a MACR on the Army Air Forces website.

This is most likely the pilot.
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Wed Jul 19, 2006 3:39 am

This from Saturday's FIJI TIMES:
http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=44830
Reardon hunts missing men
Saturday, July 15, 2006

THREE weeks ago a team from the Joint Personnel POW/MIA Accountability Command of the United States of America began a recovery mission for the remains of a World War II pilot.

The mission was carried out in highlands of Naitasiri where two villagers out hunting for wild pigs in 2004 had seen the wreckage of a plane.

The plane was said to have crashed there in April, 1942, but a search carried out a few days later proved futile as neither the plane nor the pilot was found.

The first person from the American Embassy to make his way up there was Colonel Patrick Reardon, who had arrived only five days earlier in the country.

He was told of the wreckage up in the highlands and headed up there to check if it belonged to the USA.

"I had only been here for five days when I had to go up to the hills," he said.

"I didn't have my uniform with me, I didn't have my boots and I had to borrow people's stuff to go up there," Colonel Reardon said.

"We made it up there and we were able to see the writing on the aircraft so we thought problem solved," he said.

"And we found the tail section of the aircraft and thought everything was good and we sent all the information back to Hawaii."

"But they said, can you go back up there to find the data plate because without the data plate, you can't really confirm anything."

Colonel Reardon said there was a name on the tail section of the plane, the result of pilots of the time personalising their aircraft.

He said in addition to the name, there was a picture just beneath it but it wasn't enough to provide positive identification of the plane or the pilot.

He said the data plate carried details like the serial number and the type of aircraft, allowing for easier identification.

He said based on the serial number of the aircraft, retracing who the aircraft belonged to and what happened to it would be a lot easier.

"It took us a while, we had to go back there towards the end of 2004 to search for the data plate and it was very interesting," said Colonel Reardon.

He said a sketch of the aircraft was given to help them locate the data plate because the plane was so mangled.

"But because of the wreckage, it's hard to determine what part is what so it took us a long time to actually find it.

"We got up there early in the morning and by the middle of the afternoon, we found it," he said.

Colonel Reardon said the wreck was very "bad".

"It's a very lonely area (the wreck site), we're talking about a very hilly area and the villagers didn't really know that it was an aircraft that actually crashed there," he said.

He said that was why no one went there all these years even though villagers took cattle or hunted for wild pigs there.

"It's a very remote and mountainous area and it just happened, the two villagers happened to walk to that specific spot and saw the glint of the metal and were curious and went closer," he said.

He said the media got wind of the wreck and went up there before he did.

He said it was a very steep area and he went there the next day but there were still some media people there as well.

"I made two trips in 2004 and a couple of trips last year, I've been up there like six times," he said.

And during all those times, he trekked back and forth to the site but made it a point to get there early in order to return the same day.

"So I'd go up, do what I needed to do and when you go back, you have to up and down and around," he said gesturing.

"If I take people up there, it would take three-and-a-half-hours to four hours," he said.

But he said, if one trekked up there at a pace, one could be able to make it there pretty quick.

He said the villagers were very fit and trekked to the site and back with no problem.

"But yeah, it's a very lonely place for the pilot who died, very sad and remote but it's a very tranquil place because of the flowing creek," he said.

"It's lonely but tranquil," said Colonel Reardon.

"Last year, JPAC sent some people to verify what I had seen so they sent a team of three and they went up to the place."

From that, he said, they were able to organise a recovery team to come because everything had to be done according to a schedule.

"So last year, they verified that there was indeed a wreckage there and scheduled a mission for this year," he said.

He said the mission started in mid-June when a team came to coordinate and make sure everything was in place.

He said there was an earlier team that came to make sure everything up there was good and in place.

"That's why I've been up there so many times.

"But the villagers have been very cooperative, they have done everything we asked for and we couldn't ask for better cooperation."

Colonel Reardon did everything up to the recovery and execution phase but had to go to Hawaii and missed part of the actual recovery mission.

He recounted how the plane had crashed there, saying the pilot had been sent from Nausori with another head pilot in another aircraft.

They had been sent to intercept Japanese planes that were reported to have flown towards Fiji but 10 minutes into the flight, the mission was cancelled.

Colonel Reardon believes the two aircraft were flying very low and may have been trying to make it over the mountains when one met its fatal end.

He said the pilot's class ring was found, his wallet with a few coins, a Fijian coin, a US quarter and another that appeared to be the pilot's lucky coin because it was smooth on one side.

He said the pilot was declared officially missing after a search was carried out in the days following the crash and a few years later, he was declared officially dead.

The remains of the pilot are now with the American Embassy and will be taken back to the US on Tuesday for the pilot's final journey home after 64 years.

Greater details on the pilot will be made available once proper identification procedures are complete and his family have been notified.

Only then will the family of the pilot be able to bid a proper farewell to the long lost pilot.
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Wed Jul 19, 2006 3:40 am

And this from last Friday's HONOLULU STAR BULLETIN:
http://starbulletin.com/2006/07/14/news/story07.html
WWII remains found in Fiji to be ID'd at Hickam

SUVA, Fiji ? The remains of a U.S. fighter pilot have begun a long journey home from a deep jungle ravine in Fiji, 64 years after his airplane disappeared during a World War II sortie.

A 12-member team from the Oahu-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command accepted the remains of the man -- whose identity the U.S. Air Force has yet to reveal -- Wednesday from the residents of remote Naivucini village, on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu.

"There is a family back in the United States that's been missing a family member for the last 60 years," Ambassador Larry Dinger, U.S. envoy in Fiji, told the villagers during an emotional ceremony that left villagers teary-eyed.

"Thanks to your effort, this family will now be able to close a sad chapter of their lives, and that's very important," Dinger said.

When the pilot and his single-seat P-39 fighter disappeared during a mission on April 22, 1942, no traces were found despite an aerial search that lasted four days, U.S. officials said.

Some 62 years later, on Aug. 28, 2004, Sailosi Delana and his cousin Paula Cagidomo stumbled upon the wreckage while hunting for wild boar.

Team commanding officer Maj. Albert Tabarez and anthropologist Joan Baker agreed after viewing the site that the pilot could not have survived the crash. His dog tag was not recovered, but personal effects including a ring and a wallet containing a washed-out photo were found, according to locals.

U.S. officials believe they know the pilot's identity, but are not releasing his name or other details until the remains are identified through DNA tests and the family is informed.

Tabarez said the pilot's identity will be confirmed at a laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base.
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Post by Shaharom » Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:35 am

I'm happy to hear that the pilot finally come home.




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Post by Daniel Leahy » Mon Aug 28, 2006 3:43 pm

The following comes from the JPAC website:
http://www.jpac.pacom.mil/PressReleases06/PR2006-32.htm
JOINT POW/MIA ACCOUNTING COMMAND (JPAC)
Public Affairs (808) 448-1937
public_affairs@jpac.pacom.mil

RELEASE NO. #06-32
August 8, 2006

REMAINS RETURN TO AMERICAN SOIL FROM THREE COUNTRIES

HICKAM AFB, HAWAII ? A ceremony will take place August 11 to honor recovered remains believed to be associated with American military members missing from World War II and the Vietnam War.

There will be two transfer cases associated with the Vietnam War, one of which will have remains from Laos; the other case will contain remains from Vietnam. There will also be one transfer case associated with World War II from Fiji.

A joint honor guard will memorialize the repatriation of all of the remains on Friday at 9 a.m. outside of the 15th Airlift Wing Base Operations Building, Hickam Air Force Base.

Following the ceremony, the remains will be transported to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command where the forensic identification process begins.

Media are invited to attend the ceremony. For access to Hickam AFB or more information, contact JPAC public affairs at (808) 448-1939. Media must RSVP before noon, August 10, in order to receive access to the base and must meet escorts at the gate no later than 8:20 a.m., August 11.
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