Gramps was delighted to have Major Derek Abbey USMC (Ret) as our speaker for November. Major Abbey is a retired F-18 pilot with modern combat flight time exceeding his peaceful flight time. His current occupation is the recovery of our WW-II veterans whose bodies and aircraft have not yet been found through the Bent Prop Project. Their primary current site is the Island Country of Palau in the western Pacific. Palau was an island owned by the Germans that was taken by Japan in WW-I. It consists of 250 islands. During WW-II it was heavily occupied by the Japanese, and many conflicts with the United States forces took place there.
The Country is now an independent nation, released by the United States in 1994 and now a presidential republic with close ties to the United States. The Bent Prop Project has coordinated with the President of Palau and the tribal chiefs. There has been good cooperation. The U.S. is involved with notifications through the Navy Historic Center, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the Department of Defense.
Hundreds of our aircraft and their crews were lost during the battles. Included was the search for the trawler that George H. W. Bush sank that was armed. In one area, there are about 200 downed aircraft inside the barrier reef: so far 35 U.S. and 35 Japanese aircraft have been found with another 70 discoverable. The challenge includes the fact that the landscape is brutal and the weather often runs around 110 ° and there are heavy rains. The island had tunnels and defense sites in the densely grown mangrove jungle. In one event a B-24 was downed off New Guinea with eleven crewmen: eight died and three survived to be executed. The group dug up bodies of American captives who had been buried by the Japanese. They recovered a Japanese “Norm” aircraft of which only very few were made with only one in existence now.
Currently there is participation by students from colleges who help in the searches who participate as volunteers. Their protocol is to not notify families until sure of the identities so as not to give false hope and disappointment to family. When a U.S. body was found, the Palau citizens insisted on honoring the remains before it was loaded onto an aircraft for transport home. We are grateful to Major Abbey for his work in this field. It brings closure to the families who are still unsure of the fate of their loved ones.