Since 2017, a small team of Dutch aviation enthusiasts has been working on finding the wreck of B-25H-5 43-4422 in the jungle and swamp of the Vogelkop, West Papua. The team consisted of: Fred Pelder (historic aviation technician & video filmer), Fred Warmer (combat photographer RNlArmy), Rob Hoogendoorn (jungle specialist), Max Ammer (jungle specialist and diver), Bas Kreuger (aviation historian, researcher).
Both archival research as well as analysing aerial pictures, satellite images and reports have been used to locate the wreck, till this day to no avail.
In January 2019, this team has travelled to West Papua to retrace the steps of the rescue team and see if they could find the wreck in the field. It was a very interesting endeavour and a lot of experience was gained in actually going into the bush and swamp. Unfortunately, the wreck was not found as it turned out to be very difficult to search an area of 3 km2 in a sago swamp.
We think we came close, according to our local guides it should be in the area, but it was useless to stay in the swamp without clues or actual pictures or descriptions where to look.
On our way back to the sea, we stopped in kampung Baroe and visited the church in front of which a group picture was taken on 13 August 1944 with the crew and rescue team.
We there had a wonderful experience in meeting Paulus, a 90+ years old Papua who had been a rower in the rescue team in 1944!
In the 1944 group picture, taken in front of the church where we met Paulus, you can recognise Paulus as the boy sitting second from the right in the lower row. So, we met an unlikely veteran of this rescue mission.
There are two parts of the project we are looking for help in realising them:
1. Piecing together the full story of Ira Barnett and his crew flying a mission over New Guinea, crash landing their B-25 in a swamp and being rescued after three weeks. We are looking for family or relatives of a number of people in the rescue and support team from 1944:
Might you know any of these men, their story or their family, we'd love to hear from you. Send an email to: email@example.com
2. Finding the location of the wreck. We know pictures have been taken of the wreck the same day as it crash landed. With these pictures (probably taken by Sgt Charlie Denzel Crow, 25 PRS) the rescue team could find the right spot to leave the river and head into the swamp. Also, the supply missions flown to the crew in the swamp and to the rescue team on the Kais river did profit from the pictures taken to recognise the place they had to drop their supplies.
A project like this takes a lot of time, sweat, tears and support. The first three we can provide in abundance, the last is more diverse. People and companies interested can help us in that respect.
For the 2019 expedition, we've had a lot of support from the Technical University of Delft, from ReasEuro, from the Ministry of Defence and from the Veterans Institution.
ReasEuro is specialised in surveying land and water for explosives. They work for building projects, near- and offshore projects, dredging and other projects where explosives could be expected.
ReasEuro has supported the 2019 expedition with valuable archival materials from the US.
The Veteran Institution is dedicated to the support of veterans of the Dutch armed forces who have been on missions all over the world.
The VI has supported the 2019 expedition by providing the possibility for an article in their monthly magazine Checkpoint.