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aussie 24-04-2003 12:06 AM

WWII Wrecks: A Brief History
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Visiting Wrecks :

The remote jungle or mountain location of most remaining wrecks makes the trek long and arduous. Few roads exist. Most locals know the location of wrecks, and should be sought out as resources for locating them. Nothing should be removed from sites, photographs are the best thing to take away from these unique monuments. Japanese aircraft seem to have survived better because of an Iridescent green phenolic lacquer used to prime bare metal surfaces. This layer of corrosion control paint still works to protect their aluminium skins to this day.

Visiting most wrecks is an adventure in itself. Usually, it required to walking through tall kunai grass. This wild plant is sharp, and itchy and cuts the skin. The soot from the previous fire causes one to end up blackened. There is no breeze, and their is no shade from the sweltering sun. Snakes are common, both harmless pythons and taipans (aggressive snakes that average 7 feet in length), black snakes and puff adders. Hornet, that have much in common with killer bees, live in large termite like mounds. Mosquitos are always a nucence, and crocodiles are a real danger in swamps and river regions. The dryer winter season has fewer insects, but still has the intense heat, humidity and blazing sunlight.

Local Knowledge :

Villagers usually know in great detail the stories or circumstances concerning the wrecks in their area. Often, the older generations can recall the dogfight or action that resulted in a specific crash. For the people of New Guinea, the physical remains of aircraft or war machinery has become part of the collective memory of the war, and unique monuments to the strange and confused time of the "bigpela figtim".

Every coastal village seems to have some story about the war, either about conscription in to the fighting force, the occupation, impressions about the American or Japanese soldiers or vivid recollections about the bombing and fighting that happened.

Vandalism & Souvineer Hunters :

Both bad things as far as wrecks are concerned. The better known wrecks already had most instrument panels, propellers and guns removed. Often, parts are missing or cut off for scrap. Most of this damage and scavenging happen after the war, but one should also remember that during the war many unserviceable airplanes, the ones that often remain today, were canabalized for parts. Engines, instruments, guns and even sections of the plane were rotated to other planes. To meet the surrender requirements, a propeller was removed from all serviceable aircraft to keep them grounded.

The most complete aircraft that remain today are those that force landed in the sea or on hard patches of ground surrounded by vast swamps, where a helicopter is really the only way to easily reach such planes. Even from the air is difficult to locate a camouflaged airplane that is being swallowed up by new vegetation and regrowth since the crash.

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