Monday, September 3, 2007

Update on the Mystery Crash

Several items are leading us toward an answer to the riddle of identifying the aircraft wreck located in Saipan’s Lagoon. In previous post here, here and here you can trace some of the progress being made to make the identification.

Commonly referred to as “the B-29” dive site, it absolutely is not a Superfortress.

Recent dives with Harry have netted some of the photos seen above. Each of which needs to be matched for rivet lines, cowling ventilation holes, wing top access panel holes and other details to find exact matches.

The nose-or-tail gunner ‘bubble’ position could be from a Japanese Kawanishi H8K “Emily” flying boat used primarily for reconnaissance purposes. I have yet to come across a photo or drawing which proves conclusively that this gunner bubble configuration is from the nose of an H8K, although there are similarities. Certain window configurations and sight bubble locations are not found on any photographs of H8Ks. See photo above.

Another photo above shows a much oxidized metal identification plate in the possession of a local dive shop operator purportedly taken from the wreck site. If this provenance is correct the aircraft is definitely Japanese, unless one of the US aircraft manufacturers was using Japanese language on it’s metal part id tags. Perhaps the contents of this tag can be translated to give us a clue.

Meanwhile it may take a trip to Japan to see a restored H8K close up and make actual comparisons in order to put the matter to rest once and for all. I have researched scores of other aircraft types and ruled them out. One has to remember that in wartime, parts are scavenged off of non-working aircraft and grafted onto working models in order to keep them airborne so finding exact matches may continue to be difficult.

Additional information will be posted on this site until a definitive, provable answer is found. Please stay tuned.


Brad said...

Bruce, a book I bought while visiting Saipan this last Spring lists the plane as a Japanese "Bouncing Betty". Has that been checked up on? Is it one of the planes you've ruled out?

I did a search on Wikipedia and Google for "Bouncing Betty" and didn't come up with anything. Are you familiar with that claim or any such aircraft nickname?

A G Gatto said...

Is there a map with its location that you can add? Also, do you or had you written your opinion earlier about what you think it is?


Bruce A. Bateman said...

Brad, No 'bouncing' betty that I know of. There is a code name "Betty" bomber but it is a 2 engine attack bomber and is definately ruled out since the wreckage is that of a 4 engine aircraft.

No final opinion yet, Andrew. The wreckageis in the lagoon, about 3/4 miles off the powerhouse fairly near the shipwreck site. I'll look for a map to put up.

Richard Sikkel PADI MSDT said...


Check out the pictures on this site:

I think the nose gun bubble looks like a pretty close match to me.


Bruce A. Bateman said...

Thanks Richard, I have seen the pics of that restored H8K2. It has been moved to a new museum location now.

I noticed that the actual gun placement is off center in the wreckage but is centered up in all the photos I have found of H8Ks so far. They also lack the 5 small rectangular windows found on the gun bubble at the wreck site.

The side view photo on the right top of the spread you referred MAY show a clue to those 5 windows.

Another piece that I have zeroed in on (pardon pun) is the smaller plexiglass (broken) bubble centered among many rectangular windows. This may well be the cockpit bubble and upper cockpit windows of an H8K. There is also an oval hole with mounting screw holes aft and starboard of that plexiglass bubble that MIGHT be the mount position for an aerial or antenna. Both look at least possible. I really need some photos from ABOVE an Emily so I can confirm those details and cross check access panel holes in the upper wing and engine nacelle vent configurations. Then we can be sure. Anyone having any photos of the top of an H8K please let me know.

I will reprint this lengthy diatribe as a separate post for easy access, and will include some more wreck photos of the areas of interest.