next phase

TIGHAR is pleased to announce that the Survey Phase of our Devastator Project is now completed and we are ready to begin the Permitting and Evaluation Phase. Much of the hard work and remarkable progress made over the past two and a half years has necessarily been conducted out of public view. Now, with a myriad of crucial understandings, agreements, and partnerships finally in place, we’re able and eager to let everyone know what we've been up to and invite you to join the team.

SafeguardIn October 2006, a joint TIGHAR/U.S. Navy expedition performed a detailed inspection of the two Douglas TBD “Devastator” aircraft on the bottom of Jaluit lagoon in the Marshall Islands. TIGHAR divers worked side-by-side with Navy divers from USS Safeguard to evaluate the aircraft as candidates for recovery and preservation.

USS Safeguard.

In Majuro, capital of the RMI, Dr. Robert Neyland, head of the Naval Historical Center’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, and TIGHAR executive director Ric Gillespie, met with U.S State Dept. and senior RMI government officials, including President Kessai Note, to discuss the eventual recovery and export of one of the aircraft. At Jaluit, LCDR Charles “Chuck” Ehnes coordinated with TIGHAR Dive Team Leader Col. Van Hunn USAF (ret.) to conduct an engineering survey of the two aircraft. The collection of sample material for scientific testing was supervised by Peter Fix of Texas A&M University’s Center for Marine Archaeology & Conservation.diveboats

In terms of international cooperation and joint military/civilian operations, all in the interest of aviation historic preservation, the Devastator Project Evaluation Expedition was a landmark event. The evaluation expedition conducted an engineering assessment of the aircraft and also collected small detached components and sample material for scientific testing by the U.S. Navy’s National Museum of Naval Aviation and by Texas A&M University’s Center for Marine Archaeology and Conservation. The tests will permit the design of a recovery and conservation plan that will maximize the chances of achieving the project’s ultimate goal: to save a Devastator, and in the process, conduct the first true archaeological recovery and preservation of an intact historic aircraft from an undersea environment.

The dive boat from Safeguard and the chartered
dive boat rafted together for a dive.

In the Marshall Islands, the traditional chiefs (“iroij”) of Jaluit and the Jaluit local government have approved the recovery and conservation of the aircraft “according to the best available techniques and technology of historic preservation.” In a formal agreement signed last year, they appointed TIGHAR to be their “exclusive manager and agent in all matters relating to the recovery, conservation and exhibition of the deeper of the two Douglas TBD-1 aircraft in Jaluit lagoon. We delegate to TIGHAR full authority to manage the aircraft on our behalf and to work closely with the Historic Preservation Office to assure compliance with the Historic Preservation Laws of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.”

TIGHAR is also working directly with senior officials of the national government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands including President Kessai H. Note, the Ministers of Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs, the Historic Preservation Officer, the General Manager of the EPA, and with the American Ambassador to the Marshall Islands. Without exception, all have been supportive and positive about the way TIGHAR is proceeding with this historic project.

DeeptbdBecause 2006’s expedition involved the actual recovery of material, TIGHAR also needed a permit from the U.S. Naval Historical Center’s Underwater Archaeology Branch. The head of that office, Dr. Robert Neyland, worked closely with us to make sure our permit application met all the Navy’s requirements. Dr. Neyland also joined the TIGHAR expedition team in the field.

We won’t know what the full recovery/conservation budget will be until the sample testing is done and the plan is finalized. One of the main reasons for recovering test material is to reduce the unknowns. Otherwise, erring on the side of caution could be needlessly expensive.

The Next Phase

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