VII. ATTACHMENTS: Detailed Specific Findings of P-MAN IV and Related Subjects
Introductory Note: The P-MAN IV expedition generated a lot of information in a non-linear manner by which I mean is that we typically explored more than one site in any given day and revisited sites according to need, weather and opportunity. Since this apparent chaos does not lend itself to a cohesive chronological review, I have decided to pool descriptions by event and not by date. Each section does mention the dates upon which that particular event occurred and I have attempted to link related events by reference.
Prior to this search, I had Joe contact Elechong, our guide to LTGEN Inoues jungle HQ during P-MAN II, about his taking us to an aircraft crash site he had reported finding while hunting in his nearby jungles. On the 18th, it had already begun raining as we departed Koror by van into the interior of Babeldaob. We left behind the only paved road early on and began making the most of our two-wheel drive over the now very slippery road. Van-eating ruts and thick, red mud required Clem, at the wheel, to race from the top of each hill to the top of the next to prevent getting stuck each time bouncing all of us off the ceiling.
Sliding to a halt in the village of Ibabong on northern Ngatpang, we picked up Elechong who quickly led us to the head of a hunters trail. We hiked in through moderate jungle, slick from the ongoing rain. In less than 30 minutes, after cresting a hill, he pointed forward. Immediately we saw large amounts of aircraft debris over a 50x100-yard area within a small valley, transected by a streambed. Most of the debris concentrated within a 30-yard radius in the center of this field. The type was immediately determined to be a Corsair. It must have exploded violently on impact because the massive R2800 18-cylinder round engine had broken up into small pieces and spread across the field. Near the top of one of the hills, we found the Corsairs tail section sitting vertically with the horizontal stabilizers up in the air, forming what almost looked like a cross overlooking the crash site. As we began a preliminary sweep of the area in the continuing rain, the hillside turned into mud. Every one of us began sliding down the hill, which might have otherwise been fun, had it not been for the field full of shrapnel waiting to impale those not able to gain sufficient traction.
Flip Colmer made the first important discovery: a crumpled piece of aluminum with what looked like the painted number 807. Bill Belcher a few minutes later found the confirmatory 807 on another part near the empennage (ATT1.b). We mapped our findings as best we could. Dripping wet and covered in mud, we gathered for a photograph just before the camera fogged over (ATT1.a). We could do no more and agreed to return in the morning to complete the field search and to hold flag ceremonies in honor of an American aviator, as yet unidentified, but who unquestionably flew a Corsair with the last three numbers of the BuNo being 807. When we got back to the van, I immediately pulled out my list of missing aircraft and discovered that on 10MAR45 LT James Misley of VMF-122 had been seen to crash into the jungles of Babeldaob. His Corsairs BuNo was 57807.
The next day we returned to Ibabong, this time by boat and with Jim Nelson. As the son of MAJ Nelson, commander of LT Misleys squadron, Jim agreed to act as VMF-122s ceremonial representative to receive the American flag, pending delivery to afamily member, if found. The rain had stopped and we completed our field diagram. We believe that this site has been visited before, although not in a long time. We found an undated beer bottle with the label Dianippon Brewery near the cockpit area. Joe found a rusted .50 cal machine gun, unusual because the Japanese and the American military typically removed armament from a crash site.
All of us found the standing tail section odd. Bill Belcher suspected that it might have been intentionally placed in a vertical position as a tribute but by whom? No record exists that Americans ever found this site, Elechong is not aware of other Palauans who know of the site and the Japanese would have no such motivation: it is unlikely that we will ever know. We found no human remains.
The day ended with two flag ceremonies. We all gathered around the Corsairs empennage and I said some words in respectful remembrance of LT Misley. We stood with the unfurled American flag along the steep muddy hill in the middle of the dense, wet jungle in Ngatpang State on the island of Babeldaob in the Palau Islands, far, far from Jim Misleys home. At the end of the ceremony, Flip and Bill folded the flag and delivered it to Jim Nelson for safekeeping (see masthead photo).
On 13 and 14 September 02, Jim Nelson, Val Thal, Jennifer Powers, Dan O'Brien and Pat Scannon met with the VMF-122 reunion group in Pensacola, FLA and presented the results of our findings while Tropical Storm Hannah raged outside our hotel. All of the seven former Corsair aviators remembered Jim Misley well and shared many stories with us. We all got to know Jim Misley a little on that stormy day.
The P-MAN IV team also had the honor of being photographed with Explorers Club Flag # 103 at this crash site.
In summary, we now know the following. On 18APR02, with the help of our guide Elechong, the P-MAN IV team located and identified the crash site of a USMC Corsair, BuNo 57807, flown by LT James Misley from Mt. Shasta, CA, who was shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire on 10 March 45 and crashed into the jungles of Babeldaob in Ngatpang State.
Based on interviews I have had with members of VMF-122 both before and after the expedition, I have been able to assemble some additional information about that day. According to COL Gene Morrison, USMC (Ret), who flew on the same mission that day, LT Misley was leading his (two-plane) section with Major FE Pierce along the east side of Babeldaob, while then-LT Morrison was flying on the west side with his wing man. LT Misley spotted something, possibly a large anti-aircraft gun, in the jungle to the west of his position. COL Mo Morrison remembers LT Misley as an excellent and aggressive pilot. So it was not unexpected that LT Misley immediately banked and dove toward this now-exposed enemy position. What he could not have known was that he was diving on the jungle headquarters of LTGEN Inoue Sadae, the hills around which were studded with numerous AAA sites.
COL Morrison remembers seeing Misleys Corsair pull out after the dive, followed by a stall, falling over onto his left wing into the jungle-covered hills. He saw no explosion. Upon reviewing LT Misleys Individual Deceased Personnel Form (IDPF), I have inferred that the Japanese military most likely buried his remains shortly after the crash, possibly some distance from the crash site. These remains were exhumed after the war by the US Graves Registration Unit (without mention of the crash site) but were not initially identified as those of LT Misley. By 1949, dental record comparisons had established identity and his listed next-of-kin, his mother, was notified. Then-LT Dan Cub Callis, also of VMF-122 has told me that he shared a tent with LT Misley. He clearly remembers his surprise on finding out during a telephone call with Misleys mother after the war that his tentmates remains had been located.
LT James Misley is buried in Golden Gate
Cemetery, San Bruno, CA. To date, I have not been able to locate any of
his family members.
Page last modified 27 April 2005