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Rodney Pearce
Work with World War II Veterans

Veterans from both sides have been coming back to Papua New Guinea for a number of years and I have always offered help to locate and take back to their former battlefields and one case that stands out the most or the one I will always remember is of a Japanese sergeant and I would like to share with you briefly what happened.

Several years ago, I was contacted by a Japanese veteran who fought here in New Guinea at Cape Gloucester on New Britain. He was a Sergeant or the Japanese equivalent of that rank and if my memory services me correctly, he was in charge of a anti-aircraft battery somewhere on the heights overlooking the beaches of Cape Gloucester. This chap kept a diary of his stay in the area and what was interesting to note was that he had befriended a local from the village that he was closest to and recorded the locals name.

The local's name was Jonas and after correspondence with the veteran, I made a dummy run to see if I could track this local down at his village in the Cape Gloucester area. I arrived and started asking the council members of the village and they straight away told me Jonas had died some 5-6 years pervious but his son was still alive. I met with the son and told him of this Japanese sergeant and with out a moments hesitation he produced his name and even took me to the gun emplacements that made up the sergeant's "bunker".

After a short climb of 15 minutes or more we came out on a magnificent view overlooking the surrounding area of Cape Gloucester and shore enough there were the gun pits and remains of rusting guns and other memorabilia. The son whose name was John told me his father had a Japanese friend who he used to through a baseball to too while away the hours when they had nothing to do. He also told me that one day the veteran would return to see him again. I took a lot of notes and on my return to Lae contacted the Japanese veteran who then wished to bring his family out to see where he fought and to meet the son and family of his former war time friend.

Anyway cutting a long story short the veteran did come out about 6 months later with his family and spent 4-5 days wandering the points of interest at Cape Gloucester. Sadly, however I received word only some 3 months ago that the veteran had died the previous year and could I pass on his regards to the village and especially the son of his friend.

Feeling about recovery & restoration
Regarding aircraft restoration and recovery, I guess I am in a gray area when it comes to this kind of thing. Over the years I have seen some excellent land based wrecks still in excellent condition be cut up for scrap and it breaks my heart to see this. I for one would love to see the A/C go out to restorers through out the world or for either static or returning them to flying status. Unfortunally Papua New Guinea has no firm guide lines to these old relics and most locals collect the scrap for sale however if an outsider was to try to collect for later restoration he would be met with a mountain of paper work, red tape and a huge "donation fee". Outsiders have taken planes out with the permission of the powers that be but usually after a long wait and then there is more damage to the aircraft.

The planes in the water however I feel should stay there as once taken above water they start falling apart very rapidly and I know of very few planes that have been taken from salt water and made to a static display. At least the planes in the water will be looked after buy responsible divers and operators for all to see. Perhaps in the next 50 or so years there will be a product on the market that will enshore seawater corrosion wont go further than it is.

Hopes For The Future
My hopes for Niugini Diving in the future are lots of aircraft finds so can complete the documentary mentioned earlier. ideally, I would like to spend more time researching and finding aircraft full time. I get a great kick out of taking people to cruise the Islands, and I guess I always will. they may not even be divers but just snorklers who want to do a mixed bag of tricks on their vacation, these are the things I love doing, a simple out door life on the sea.

Over the next few years, I would like to go after a couple of wrecks of a Japanese destroyer, Japanese submarine I-22, Boston A28-3, Beaufort A9-2 and a number of other planes that I know about, all of which will be posted to this site at later date. I f any readers know any stories of ditched aircraft or know of any in good condition under the water whether they be in PNG, Indonesia or the Solomon's I would like to know about them and film them for a documentary sub titled a "Sunken Air force" that I mentioned previously in the interview.

I am currently doing a article for Sport diving Magazine on the finding of Beaufighter A19-130 and also the recovery of the Missing In Action (MIA) from Beaufort A9-217 both of which I have touched on here. Also, I have an article about wreck diving in Air Niugini in Flight Magazine Paradise.

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