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Swamp Ghost & Black Cat Pass B-17 Recovery

Posted: Wed May 17, 2006 5:31 am
by David McNeill
At the risk of spreading rumours there is a discussion over at Warbird Information Exchange about the supposed salvage of Swamp Ghost and the B-17 at Black Cat Pass: ... sc&start=0

Anyone got any knowledge of this?

Be nice but I'll belive it when I see a picture of her disassembled and outside PNG!

Posted: Wed May 17, 2006 3:39 pm
by Daniel Leahy
Hi All,

I've made David's post "Sticky" as there has been quite a lot of speculation about either (or even both) the Swamp Ghost and Black Cat Pass B-17s being recovered.

As I write this, there seems to be no hard evidence (yet) that either Fortresses have been, or are in the process of being recovered.

Also check out another post here at the PWD Forum: ... php?t=1047

Feel free to use this thread to post facts (preferably) or even rumours about either wreck being recovered.

Swamp Ghost

Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 7:59 am
by rod mountford
Hi have heard the rumours about its recovery as well and have made attempts to contact some people who may be involved but have had no conformation either way! Of course if recovered it will go to the States as any recovery and restoration will run into the millions. Interesting to see what happens but as an archaeologist i think it should be recovered and put on display for future generations. Cheers Rod

Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 6:02 pm
by Daniel Leahy
Recent buzz on the Internet indicates that the wreck of B-17E 41-2446 no longer remains in a Papua New Guinean swamp.

Numerous reports indicate the aircraft was broken up and could currently be sitting in Lae awaiting shipment to the US.

Though there are quite a number of these reports from reputable sources, photos are yet to be seen.

References: ... 0481f#2636 ... php?t=7309

Posted: Mon May 22, 2006 7:16 pm
by Daniel Leahy

Below is a photo which appeared in today's Post Courier newspaper in PNG... (It made front page).


The article is available online from:
US bomber taken from Oro swamp

SWAMP GHOST, an American war plane that crashed into the swamps of Oro Province during World War II is about to be shipped out to the United States of America. The WWII bomber, a B17E plane is reportedly to be restored in the United States. The plane has been shifted from a swamp in Oro Province to Lae and is expected to be shipped to the USA soon. The National Museum authorities said a Fred Hagen from the US and a Robert Greinert from Australia, have been allowed to have the plane salvaged and restored in the United States at a cost of thousands of US dollars. It is believed the war relic, if sold could be worth over a million US dollars. National Museum acting director Simon Poraituk said in a letter last month that the National Museum and Art Gallery board of trustees have made a decision to let Mr Hagen salvage and restore the plane. The board was empowered by the National Museum and Art Gallery Act of 1992 to make decisions on war surplus materials that were protected by the war surplus material act (1952), he said then. The plane had remained fully intact for the last 64 years in Karaisa village of Oro Province. However, Karisa leaders Jerry Yogoni, Gilbert Yogoni, Gutari Yogoni, Colin Tom and the chairman of the Beach Head Battlefields Tourism Committee in Popondetta Joachim Olai do not want the plane to be salvaged, removed or damaged. They all agreed that the plane should be left where it was because it was ?priceless? and that it could be used to attract tourist.
The main Post Courier website is available at

Posted: Mon May 22, 2006 7:45 pm
by Daniel Leahy
The following article has also appeared in today's edition of The National (another PNG newspaper):
Swamp Ghost resurfaces after 64 years

A GROUP of Americans have salvaged a World War II Boeing 17 Flying Fortress from the swamps of Northern province and are preparing to ship it to the United States via Lae.
The Swamp Ghost had been sitting in the Aigiambo Lake for 64 years after it was shot down by the Japanese in 1942.
Yesterday, the Americans, with some local hired hands, were busy dismantling parts at the Lae wharf to be put into containers for shipment.
However, late yesterday, a staff of the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery told The National that the permanent parliamentary Public Accounts Committee had last Friday queried and ordered that the entire salvage operation be abandoned.
When asked, the Americans said they have acquired written permission from the museum to move the aircraft.
A Lae-based Customs official also visited the Swamp Ghost yesterday and, when shown a clearance letter from the national museum, said he could not do much.
Salvaging the Swamp Ghost had cost US$350,000 (K1,054,000) for it to be lifted out of the Aigiambo Lake in its entirety, shipped to the Bismark Marine wharf in Lae where its wings and four engines were dismantled along with two large machine guns to be packed into containers.
Engineer supervising the project Joe Krzeminski said the Swamp Ghost was shot down in 1942 after carrying out a raid on Rabaul and was heading back to Townsville, Australia, where it was based.
Mr Krezeminski said all the nine crew members survived the crash and were aided back to Port Moresby across the Kokoda Trail.
The final resting place for the Swamp Ghost would be at a museum at Longbeach in California, United States.
The aircraft has a wing span of 105 feet with four 1,200 horse-powered engines and can fly to about 35,000 feet above the sea level.
It can carry up to 65,000 pounds of bomb and fuel and can do 1,400 miles in an hour.
Mr Krezeminski said the project is sponsored by four Americans - Fred Hagen, Billy Hansfield, Paul Adams and Robert Reinhartz.
The article includes a larger image:


The main National website is available at

Posted: Tue May 23, 2006 2:57 am
by David McNeill
You beat me to it Daniel, I was just about to add that link :)

Good news that the old girl is finally going to be looked after. Shame that she won't be in Australia or PNG when she has been restored though.

Did anyone else notice the bit in the second article about her being capable of doing 1,400mph :)

Lets see if the same gentlemen are also going to go after the Black Cat B17...

Posted: Wed May 24, 2006 6:52 am
by Daniel Leahy
The following has appeared in today's edition of THE NATIONAL:
Government Grounds Swamp Ghost

RELEVANT government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Commission, have been directed by the government to prevent the shipment of a war relic, a World War II fighter aircraft, to the United States.

Acting Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei announced yesterday that the national government would review the decision by the National Museum and Art Gallary board of trustees to approve the shipment of the B-17 E Boeing bomber, dubbed the swamp ghost to the US.
In a statement released yesterday following revelations by the media about the shipment of the war relic out of Popondetta, where it had been resting in the Agaiembo Lake since 1942, Sir Moi said: ?Like many Papua New Guineans, I was shocked to learn that PNG would lose this very important relic from PNG?s World War II past.?

The acting PM said his office was yesterday inundated by phone calls from concerned citizens following the media coverage on the salvage operation.

He said he was very surprised that such an important matter had not been brought to the attention of the national executive council well before the salvage operation was granted approval.

Sir Moi said he had directed the Minister for Culture and Tourism David Basua to use whatever powers available to suspend the shipment of the aircraft, until the issue had been considered in full by the government.

?I have directed the minister to prepare a detailed briefing paper on the matter, and to explain why the National Museum and Art Gallery approved the salvaging and shipment of the aircraft.?

He added that the government would also closely examine the legal basis behind the decision.

He said the aircraft was a very important historical relic for PNG and it would add to the country?s World War II memorabilia that attracts thousands of visitors to the country every year.

He said in this regard, he found it very difficult to comprehend the decision by government authorities to allow the war relic?s shipment to the United States.
The acting PM acknowledged that his decision would cause concern for the US-based salvaging group, but added that he was acting in the national interest and the public expected the decision to be reviewed by the government.

Sir Moi said in accordance with his decision, the director of the national museum had instructed relevant government authorities, such as the Internal Revenue Commission, to prevent shipment of the aircraft.

Posted: Wed May 24, 2006 7:11 am
by Daniel Leahy
The following also appeared in today's edition of THE NATIONAL:
PM Must Intervene: Jojoga
By Julia Daia Bore

LANDOWNERS from the Agaiembo Lake area have called on Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to intervene and stop the shipment of the Swamp Ghost to the United States.

The Swamp Ghost refers to the remains of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber that was shot down over the Musa area of Northern province in 1942 after carrying out a raid on a Japanese base in Rabaul, East New Britain province, as it was heading back to Townsville in Australia.

All nine crew members of the plane reportedly survived the crash and made it back to safety after crossing the Kokoda Track.

Karaisa landowners representative Willington Jojoga said the relic rightfully belonged to Papua New Guinea.

?Under no circumstances should any foreigner be allowed to have it removed and taken out of the country,? Mr Jojoga, a former UPNG academic and PNG historian, said yesterday.

He said the whole issue on the B-17 E Boeing 41-2246 bomber should not have been allowed to have advanced this far.

According to available documents and reports, Mr Jojoga said there were three different American groups interested in the Swamp Ghost, beginning in 1980.

One group was led by a Bob Gonzales from the Travis Air force Base Historical Society, who dealt with a senior officer at the war museum.

The Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation (MARC) group was the second, although its members did not clearly identify themselves and initially said all they wanted was to make a documentary movie based on the recollections of the two remaining crew members still alive today.

The documentary, they had said, would involve the local people.

This group was led by a Fred Hagen which dealt directly with a senior officer at the National Museum and Art Gallery.

From this deal came a payment of about US$100,000 (K301,000) in June 1999.
It was at this time that former PNG ambassador to the US Sir Nagora Bogan became aware of what was going on and ordered an investigation. Washington-based diplomat Graham Michael was assigned the job in 2000, which resulted in the suspension of the travel plans by the Americans to PNG.

Sir Nagora yesterday confirmed the investigation, adding that everything was put on hold because the embassy wanted to establish with local landowners and PNG authorities the claims made by the foreigners.

Mr Michael had also written to PNG authorities advising against proceeding with anything until all was properly established.

He also advised that the passports of Mr Hagen and his colleagues had been withheld by the PNG embassy in Washington DC.

On May 5 this year, 28-year-old Justin Taylan and his group from New York also came out publicly in the media expressing their interest in the Swamp Ghost.
?Now, it?s quite shocking,? Mr Jojoga said.

?Only the PM can stop this; it seemed that all other parties have an interest in the matter.?

Posted: Wed May 24, 2006 7:12 am
by Daniel Leahy
And then this appeared in today's edition of the POST COURIER:
Swamp Ghost stalled

THE Government has moved to stop the export of the wreck of a World War II B17E bomber from Northern Province through Lae. Acting Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei, announced last night the Government would review the decision by the National Museum and Art Gallery Board of Trustees to approve the shipment of the aircraft. Earlier, the Public Accounts Committee also ordered the relic be detained pending a public inquiry on July 1. Acting Prime Minister, Sir Moi Avei announced last night that the Government will review the decision by the National Museum and Art Gallery Board of Trustees to approve the shipment from Papua New Guinea of a WWII B17E bomber aircraft. This followed media reports yesterday that the aircraft, nicknamed ?Swamp Ghost?, had been removed from its resting place in a dry swamp-bed in the Northern Province for 64 years. The bomber has remained largely intact, having crash landed in the lake after running out of fuel while returning from a bombing operation to Rabaul during the war. Earlier yesterday, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which investigates use of public money and property, ordered the Internal Revenue Commissioner David Sode to have customs officers stop the plane from being shipped to the United States from Lae where it wings have been dismantled. Sir Moi said: ?Like many Papua New Guineans, I was shocked to learn that Papua New Guinea would lose this very important relic from her World War II past.? He said he had directed the Minister for Culture and Tourism David Basua to use whatever powers available to the Government to suspend the shipment. PAC chairman John Hickey said he was informed of the matter last Friday and ordered an unofficial inquiry with the Museum?s acting director Simon Poraituk on the grounds for the Museum?s board of trustees to have the plane salvaged and restored overseas. ?I am alarmed that the plane has been removed,? said Mr Hickey. ?I am disappointed with the management of the museum and the National Museum and Art Gallery board of trustees,? he said. Mr Sode has confirmed receiving instructions from PAC and said that the plane would not be given any clearance to be exported. Mr Sode said PAC would be conducting their investigation and they (IRC) would be doing their own investigation, as was their normal routine before a permit was given.

Posted: Wed May 24, 2006 7:36 pm
by Daniel Leahy
Some more news from PNG newspapers today...

War plane guns seized

TWO machine guns supposed to be shipped out of the country with the controversial American WWII B-17E bomber dubbed ?Swamp Ghost? did not have export licences.
Customs officers say the two machine guns were built into the plane but they had to have separate export permits.
Customs officers dismantled the guns and removed them from the plane and put them away safely.
The warplane has an export permit following an agreement signed between the National Museum Board of Trustees and American military firm Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation which allowed MARC to salvage the plane and restore it in the United States of America.
However, the plane will not be removed pending the outcome of the Public Accounts Committee inquiry on July 1.
The PAC is a parliamentary committee that protects and investigates the use of public monies and state properties.
Acting Attorney-General Fred Tomo said they were acting on a directive from the PAC to obtain a National Court injunction restraining the exportation of the warplane.
Mr Tomo said his lawyers were getting information to establish how the agreement to allow the salvage and restoration of the plane was signed in the first place.
PAC Chairman John Hickey said the museum management had told him that $US100,000 (K320,000) was given as goodwill money to the state and to the Oro Provincial Government and the landowners.
Mr Hickey said he had given the museum board of trustees and its management 24 hours to declare the plane a national heritage item.
He said if investigations show that the plane had to be retained, part of the K320,000 should be used to have the plane transported back Northern Province.
The Swamp Ghost saga
BY all means let Papua New Guinea make sensible diplomatic arrangements to retain the grounded World War Two bomber, dubbed the Swamp Ghost.
While the issue is scarcely in the same category as the Public Accounts Committee investigations, the numerous leadership tribunal hearings currently underway, or PNG?s battle against rape, sorcery and murder, a case can be made out for the downed bomber?s retention in this country.
At the same time, we should avoid knee-jerk reactions and acknowledge a few facts.
The aircraft presumably remains the property of the United States Air Force.
We imagine that it would have great historical significance to those Americans who fought in WWII in our country, and to their descendants.
We would do well to recognise why the Americans were fighting in our country at the time, and to calmly assess the contribution their involvement and that of the Australians made to the preservation of our freedom and the development of the independent state of Papua New Guinea.
Had those efforts failed, landowners in the area where the Swamp Ghost was shot down might not today own any land at all.
The Boeing B-17 bomber was downed in 1942, while returning from a raid on Japanese-held Rabaul.
That?s 64 years ago.
It would seem that during that long period, only the Americans have expressed any interest in the stranded plane.
According to a local historian, three attempts have been made by American groups to salvage the aircraft and return it to the United States.
To the best of our knowledge, no attempts have been made by any Papua New Guinean government or by the local landowners, to take advantage of the bomber, to preserve it, or in any way to create a tourist attraction from the plane?s presence.
The clear message PNG has sent to the outside world has been one of suspicion over attempts to salvage and preserve the plane, while making no effort to do so itself.
Let?s be honest.
This country?s reputation for preserving contemporary history, including WWII relics, has been almost entirely negative.
Almost all of the recognised connections with WWII that still remain in our country have been ignored, vandalised or simply forgotten.
Nor is our record with those remaining vestiges of our own history any better.
Only a tiny handful of our people displayed even the slightest interest in saving the birthplace of our independence, the House of Assembly.
It is almost inconceivable that given the chance to preserve that building for posterity, we allowed it to house squatters who ultimately destroyed any possibility of restoration.
Future generations will be scathing in their assessment of our apathy over that issue.
PNG is littered with battle sites, remarkable wartime and historical cemeteries, and a host of other relics rotting away in our harsh climate. Very few indeed have been carefully maintained and are available for tourist inspection.
There are dozens of fascinating wrecks in many of our harbours; there has been no attempts made to salvage any of these as aspects of our national history. In general, they have become havens for divers and fish, or have been plundered for anything of value that remained.
The Fairfax Harbour wreck of the Burns Philp passenger ship, the MV Macdhui, a far more important war relic than the Swamp Ghost, has been allowed to rust away to near invisibility.
The sea grave of many Port Moresby residents trapped when the ship was strafed on June 17 and 18, 1942, by Japanese bombers, the Macdhui should have been preserved as a maritime memorial park, a fitting tribute to the many innocent civilians who were slaughtered on board.
Our government should step back from the outburst of passionate nationalism that has erupted over the Swamp Ghost.
If it is thought to be a matter of national importance to keep this plane in PNG, then we should pursue the matter through appropriate diplomatic channels.
But at the same time, we should look back with candour at our own poor record of preserving or capitalising upon the huge range of wartime and
other historical relics that have waited in vain for funding, for the people?s interest, and for positive action to ensure their survival.
Minister wants report for NEC

THE National Museum and Art Gallery had been directed to put together a submission for Culture and Tourism Minister David Basua to take to cabinet on all matters relating to the World War II Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.
The bomber, nicknamed the Swamp Ghost, was returning from an air raid mission in East New Britain when it crash landed on the Agaiembo Lake in 1942. It was recently retrieved from the lake and shipped to Lae where it was in the process of being dismantled and packed into containers for shipment to the US.
However, newspaper reports on these activities resulted in various government agencies intervening, including permanent parliamentary Public Accounts Committee chairman John Hickey and acting Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei.
The Swamp Ghost is now sitting idle at the main wharf in Lae, Morobe province.
Government authorities are also questioning the procedures used by the National Museum and Art Gallery board in permitting a group of Americans to retrieve and dismantle the Swamp Ghost for shipment overseas.
Internal Revenue Commission (IRC) chief David Sode, when contacted yesterday, said he had not received any export documentation from the Americans trying to ship the remains of the Boeing B-17 bomber.
?A lot will depend on the legal status of export authorisation from the National Museum and Art Gallery,? Mr Sode said, when asked if the IRC would block the shipment of the relic to the US.
Sir Moi had called on all relevant authorities do all in their powers to prevent the aircraft from leaving the shores of PNG while cabinet reviews the museum board?s decision.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the National Museum and Art Gallery board Arthur Jawodimbari is away overseas.
He is understood to be on a two-week prayer retreat in North Queensland, Australia.
Museum executives could not locate him yesterday to sign important documents explaining their position on the matter.
Acting director Simon Poraituk told The National yesterday that the chairman was out of the country and could not be reached to comment on the Swamp Ghost.
Deputy board chairman Andrew Kongri also refused to comment yesterday, preferring to wait until the full board of 13 members meets to discuss the issues at hand.

Posted: Thu May 25, 2006 7:19 am
by David McNeill
Lets hope they can come to an agreement quickly and get the old girl safely on her way. Leaving her at Lae does nobody any good! Personally I hope that this might pave the way to the PNG National Museum ending up with the facilities to support a collection of warbirds in return for the export of significant airframes.

Posted: Thu May 25, 2006 7:27 pm
by Daniel Leahy
Once again, Swamp Ghost has made one of the PNG newspapers...

This from todays NATIONAL:
Uproar over giving up the Ghost

ROCKS were hurled at a senior Papua New Guinean journalist in Lae yesterday by an expatriate trying to prevent pictures of a WWII bomber being taken at the Bismarck Marine wharf.

Lae-based journalist with The National Yehiura Hriehwazi was on a 40hp-powered dinghy that took him to the Bismarck Marine wharf where the Boeing 17E Flying Fortress, dubbed the Swamp Ghost is being dismantled after it was salvaged from the Agaiembo swamp in the Northern province.
Since the story was first broken by the media on Tuesday, the salvage operation is being done under tight security.

Media personnel were yesterday refused entry into the Bismarck Marine wharf to interview the Americans.

This forced Mr Hriehwazi to hire a banana-boat to take him around the main PNG Harbours Board wharf and into the area, where the Swamp Ghost is being dismantled and packed into containers.

An expatriate involved in the salvage operation shouted from the wharf ?get out, get out of here.?

Despite the shouting, Mr Hriehwazi proceeded to take pictures of what appeared to be an attempt to load the body of the Boeing 17E onto a boat that berthed alongside the wharf.

The expatriate who was holding onto a digital camera then picked up stones near him and threw them at the reporter. One of the rocks hit the dinghy and he continued to yell, ?get out, get out, I will sue you.?

Some Papua New Guineans also shouted abuses and threats.

Attempts for an interview with the Americans staying at the Lae International Hotel were unsuccessful.

An expatriate identifying himself as Ron Stewart called The National?s Port Moresby office and said he was sorry for throwing stones at the reporter in Lae.

He said he was angry because the papers had previously printed his photograph without his permission.

Mr Stewart said the WWII relic was moved yesterday to the end of the wharf to create space for other ships and barges, at the direction of Bismarck.

He said he did not think the plane was going anywhere until the controversy surrounding it was resolved.
It does not seem to make any appearance in today's POST COURIER.

Posted: Fri May 26, 2006 4:18 pm
by Laurent
Info comes from the WIX forum from a member of the "Swamp Ghost" recovery team.


Swamp Ghost

Posted: Sat May 27, 2006 3:51 am
by rod
Hi hopefully this saga will end soon. If there is a legal export permit and MOU with the authorities then the plane will be on her way. Certain individuals have been informing locals that any WWII airplane wreck is worth millions of dollars. Most people on this site know that recovery and restoration costs 100,000's of dollars. Telling the locals in both PNG and other South Pacific nations this will only delay and hamper any future recoveries. There is only a small window of opportunity in the next 5 yrs or so to recover any remaining wrecks deemed worthwhile for restoration and display. Lets hope that those planes left will NOT RIP (Rust In Peace). Cheers Rod