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Visits to P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22687
by Richard Leahy
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Background
Marion C. Lutes was an A-20 pilot with the 312th based at Gusap. It would seem that on the 29 th April 1944 he happened to be at Nadzab when the P-47D 42-22687 needed to be ferried back to it's base at Gusap following maintenance at Nadzab. He was able to persuade the powers that were responsible for the aircraft to allow him to ferry it back to Gusap even though Lutes was a bomber pilot. His flight plan indicated that he was heading off to Faita to test fire the guns.  Following his departure from Nadzab on that day he was not seen again.
 
Discovery in 1979
That is until October 1979. At that time, the British Army were sponsering an "Outward Bound" type of operation which awarded a scholarship to selected British Youths (both men and Women) in groups of about thirty to be removed to various remote parts of the globe to study the people, geography and carry out limited "good Works" such as cleaning up bush  schools, hospitals etc. This sometimes involved daunting hikes over the ranges and through the forest. It was on one of these hikes from Gusap over the Finisterre ranges to the Northern coast (or vice versa) that a group of Operation Drake men and women under command of a British Army officer discovered Lute's P-47 at 8,000' ASL about 8 miles north of Gusap. I was fairly close to Drake's Commanding Officer, a Lt. Colonel John Blashford Snell and he provided me with the details of the "find" and requested that I research the site if I was able to . I had the plane identified through one of Australia's leading war historians in matters to do with the RAAF in the SWPA, Robert Kendall Piper. Piper has been writing articles and conducting actual visits to crash sites since he lived in PNG during the 1960s. As soon as this information was to hand, I advised CILHI (whom I had worked with previously on other sites that I had personally located for them), Colonel Blashford Snell and  Bruce Hoy
 
Six Visits to the Wreck Site
1) I first visited the site on January 3, 1990 with my son Nicholas. This was to positively identify the aircraft and photograph it. We overnighted there. It did take nearly all day to locate it. The guides we organized managed to get lost.

2) I went in again on 17th. August 1990 to guide US Army CILHI and Bruce Hoy there so that CILHI could carry out a brief survey.

3) I once again took CILHI to the site on the 21st September 1990. The CILHI man was Capt Dane Anderson. This was for another survey. We did not over night. 

4) On the 15th September 2000 I took Fred Hagen to the site and to O'Sullivan's P-38 as well. 

5) Visit with CILHI teams in 1990, but do not have the exact dates.

6) Visit with CILHI teams in 2000, but do not have the exact dates.
 
I was advised by CILHI a couple of years ago that they still fully intended to recover Lutes and that they did not want the site to be interfered with. Accordingly, when it was brought to my attention earlier this year that Greinert intended to remove the aircraft in the near future, I immediately advised JPAC by e-mail. This was last May.
 
JPAC were in town at this time and a few days ago I advised them that Greinert was currently removing the aircraft. They became most concerned and immediately started to attempt to do something to stop him, it was however too late. They did not seem to have any knowledge of the recovery or that I had advised them of Greinert's plan previously.

I took some video and quite a few photographs on each visit and a lot of it is quite good. I even have a set of photographs that Operation Drake had made for me. They are fairly terrible. This means that I have visited the site six times since it was discovered in 1979.

PART II - Leahy's Feelings About the Recovery

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