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  Ki-49-II Helen Manufacture Number 3220  
? Sentai

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RAN September 1944

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Ray Fairfield 1972

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Bruce Adams 1975

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Richard Leahy 1984

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Phil Bradley 1997

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Justin Taylan 2003

Aircraft History
Built by Nakajima during the end of June 1943. Uncoded serial number 220. Delivered to the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) as Army Type 100 Heavy Bomber / Ki-49-II Donryu "Helen" manufacture number 3220.

Wartime History
This aircraft was likely assigned to the 7th Sentai or 61st Sentai operating in New Guinea. No known markings or numbers. Possibly, this bomber was operating as a transport when it landed at Alexishafen Airfield (No. 1).

Wartime History
During late 1943, this aircraft disabled or abandoned at the western end of Alexishafen Airfield (No. 1). The nose section just forward of the cockpit was severely damaged by a blast from above, possibly from the detonation of a parafrag bomb. There was also evidence of shrapnel damage on other parts of the fuselage.

On April 26, 1944 the Australian Army 30th Battalion captured Alexishafen Airfield. This bomber was among the wrecked Japanese aircraft captured in a disabled condition in the area. During May 1944, a team from Allied Technical Intelligence Unit (ATIU) including Michael J. Freeman investigated and photographed the bomber. The earliest known wreck photos date from their visit sometime in May 1944.

Over the decades, the nearby jungle grew up around the aircraft and the skin suffered corrosion during seasonal grass fires, but as late as the middle 1990s traces of the Hinomaru markings and stencils remained visible. The condition of the wreck changed very little in fifty years until the early 1990s. Visitors for over a half century were respectful of the wreck.

This bomber is one of the last known and largely intact Ki-49 Helen wrecks left in the world. Often mistakenly identified as a "Betty Bomber" in tourist literature or by locals or guides. Tourists and visitors often visited and photographed this wreckage, due to the easy accessibility off the North Coast Road.

During the late 1990's, the nose section was broken up, and later removed.  The outer wing panels disappeared, and were likely scraped. Another sad happening was a natural happening when a nearby tree fell onto the fuselage, denting the rear fuselage and nearly severing off the tail.

Today, this bomber remains one of the most popular war relics or war sites visited by tourists from nearby Madang. It is likely one of the most photographed war wrecks in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

"Nakajima Ki-49 Serial Numbers" by Jim Long
Rust In Peace (1975) by Bruce Adams pages 32, 57
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks (1979) by Charles Darby pages 62 (lower), 77
National Geographic "Ghosts of War in the South Pacific" April 1988 page 552
Behind Enemy Lines (1997) by Michael J. Freeman includes two photos of this aircraft
Pacific Ghosts CD-ROM profiles this aircraft
Thanks to Charles Darby for manufacture number

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Last Updated
July 8, 2019


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