- Scattered wreckage of B-25 bomber.
- GPS coordinates 06° 04.108′ North; 169° 36.471 East
- The coordinates given in the 1997 NPS Survey are 06° 04.255′
North; 169° 36.471 East
- The north/south discrepancy is undoubtedly due to the readings being
taken at opposite ends of the long debris field.
This site was inspected and filmed in the afternoon of
May 11, 2004 and was found to be generally as described in the 1997 survey.
TIGHAR does, however, take issue with that report’s observation that
“As the site is in such (poor) condition there is little interest
to divers other than possible further investigation of the area with
metal detectors for artifacts, etc.” Aside from the lamentable
encouragement of souvenir hunting, the comment fails to acknowledge that
the scattered B-25 wreckage lies at the base of a truly spectacular reef
whose profusion of Porites sp. corals make it a potentially popular sport
diving destination in its own right.
Photo by J. Hoover.
New Site MI-JL-LA-007
- Intact wreckage of US Navy Douglas TBD-1 Devastator,
aka “the deep airplane,” presumed to be U.S. Navy Bureau
Number 1515 assigned to Torpedo Squadron 5 aboard the aircraft carrier
USS Yorktown (CV-5), and crewed on the morning of February
1, 1942 by pilot Ensign Herbert R. Hein, Jr., bombardier AOM3c J.
D. Strahl, and radioman/rear gunner SEA1c Marshall E. Windham. All
members of this crew are now deceased.
- GPS coordinates REMOVED FOR SECURITY.
aircraft’s presence had been postulated since at least 1997
but it was not until June 6, 2002 that Majuro-based divers Brian
Kirk and Matt Holly located the wreck in 125 feet of water roughly
100 yards from the shallow TBD. Since then a very limited number
of people have visited the wreck.
L. to R.: Ensign Herbert R. Hein, Jr.; AOM3c J.D.
Strahl, SEA1C Marshall E. Windham. From That
Gallant Ship – USS Yorktown (CV-5).
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
|This site was the subject of three dives,
two on the afternoon of May 10 and one on the morning of May 11. The
first dive illustrated how difficult the aircraft is to find, even
with the help of a guide, and the complexities of working at greater
depths. The boat was brought to the area over the site using GPS and
sonar. The guide then dove down to anchor a marker float near the aircraft.
The four-man survey/photography team entered the water shortly afterward
and attempted to follow the guide’s bubbles to the aircraft but,
because the bubbles had drifted somewhat with the current, were unable
to locate either the guide or the aircraft. After a suitable recovery
period, a second dive followed the marker line and found the aircraft
without difficulty. The buoy was left in place and, on the morning
of May 11, the team once again followed the line to the aircraft and
completed the survey and filming. The buoy and line were then retrieved.
|Photo by J. Hoover.
The deep TBD rests level on the sandy bottom with the
starboard wing and a portion of the fuselage supported by some flat
coral growth. Aside from the flotation bag covers, fabric control surfaces,
tailwheel and a few skin panels from the starboard side of the nose
(some of which appear to be nearby and partially covered with sand)
the aircraft is entirely intact. The lower engine mounts appear to
be broken, probably from the aircraft settling to the bottom in a nose-down
attitude resulting in the engine from the mounts forward being tilted
9° downward and 20° to starboard (right). The outer 2.5 feet
of one propeller blade is buried in the sand. No excavation was attempted
but the exposed remainder and the entire length of the other blades
show no indication of damage (below left).
to the much greater depth, coral growth on this aircraft is markedly
different from that seen on the shallow TBD. Coral which in shallow
water grows tall tends, at depth, to hug the bottom to maximize the
area exposed to light so that its zooxanthellae can photosynthesize.
This stunting effect reduces the visible distinctions among various
types and makes the identification of deep corals difficult without
collecting samples, which was not an option in this case. Rather than
large but isolated clumps and sheets, the coral on the deep TBD forms
a thinner but more uniform coating over much of the airframe (right).
|Photos above and left by J. Hoover.
As a consequence, it is not apparent whether any paint
survives under the coral but it was possible for the survey team to
observe more interior detail, especially in the cockpit area, without
disturbing the wreck and confirm that the aircraft exhibits no evidence
of damage or pilferage since its arrival on the bottom 62 years ago.
Both machine guns, the loop antenna, the cockpit controls and instruments,
and all of the canopy elements are present and undamaged to the extent
that can be determined without disturbing the site.
||Cockpit of 1515, left; official Navy photo of TBD cockpit,
deep TBD in Jaluit lagoon represents that rarest of archaeological
opportunities: a complete, virtually undamaged, remarkably well-preserved,
undisturbed artifact that has both general and individual historical
significance. Not only is it an intact example of an important aircraft
type that survives in no museum or collection, but, as a casualty
of the February 1, 1942 Marshall Islands raids, the individual aircraft
is one of the very first American offensive combat losses of the
Pacific war. The aircraft is most certainly eligible for inclusion
on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and any undertaking
involving the site by any agency of the United States government
would be subject to the Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and require
a Section 106 review.
Rear machine gun. Photo by J. Hoover.
Above, Loop antenna. TIGHAR photo by T. Love.
Right, Front machine gun and sight. Photo by J. Hoover.
To date, the aircraft has been protected by two factors:
- Its very existence was only theoretical until recently. Only a
handful of people today know its location.
- Although resources on Jaluit are capable of supporting sport diving
to moderate depths, any significant bottom-time at the deep TBD requires
technical support that must be brought in at considerable expense.
TIGHAR's survey was accomplished with a boat, equipment, compressor,
and specialized safety equipment ferried from Majuro 125 miles away.
Our team included a physician whose specialty is dive medicine.
However, it would be foolish to suppose that the aircraft
will remain in such pristine condition for long. It is accessible to sport
divers who are willing to “bounce” dive for a brief stay at the
greater depth and potential souvenirs like the gun sight, the control stick,
the instruments, and even the rear gun are vulnerable to smash-and-grab tactics.
In TIGHAR’s opinion, the only viable management option
for this irreplaceable cultural resource is recovery under rigorous archaeological
supervision followed by the application of expedient conservation measures
and immediate transportation to a museum conservation facility for stabilization,
restoration, and ultimately, exhibition.
Legal concerns, practical considerations and ethics dictate
that any recovery of the TBD have the approval and full cooperation of the
Historic Preservation Office of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the
owners of that part of the lagoon in which the airplane rests, and the four
iroij of Jaluit atoll. This is an aspect of historic aircraft recovery that
has, in the past, been too often neglected. Bribery, intimidation and outright
theft of aircraft and artifacts by salvagers have left a sad legacy of distrust
throughout the Pacific region that can present a formidable obstacle to legitimate
preservation efforts. There is, in fact, a widely held belief among the residents
of Jaluit that at some time in recent years an aircraft was stolen from the
lagoon and taken to Saipan. Whether true or not, the story fits the image
of piracy that typifies, and is even embraced by, some aircraft salvagers.
TIGHAR is committed to the idea that an archæologically
and ethically sound recovery of a TBD from Jaluit lagoon can benefit both
the interests of historic preservation and the local community and set an
example for future cooperative efforts worldwide. The happy coincidence of
two TBDs in the lagoon means that the intact and complete deep airplane could
be recovered and preserved while the more safely accessible shallow Devastator
remains in situ to compliment the other historic ship and aircraft wrecks
in the lagoon as tourist diving attractions. Of course, increased promotion
of Jaluit as a WWII wreck-diving destination will require increased vigilance
to prevent souvenir hunting but, in our experience, the worst looting occurs
when a site is known to only a few enthusiasts who see it as a private treasure-trove.
Daylight, in such cases, is the best disinfectant and it is our hope that
the documentary film we’re making about the aircraft at Jaluit will
both promote increased tourism and help protect the wrecks as cultural resources.