Rediscovering Admiral Yamamoto’s Plane Wreck!

March 8, 2020
Front Row Society - Georg Berg 

Shortly after take-off, we take a look at the Australian mega-yacht True North from the on-board helicopter / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
Shortly after take-off, we take a look at the Australian mega-yacht True North from the on-board helicopter / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

We're on the True North helicopter. Below us the rain-covered jungle, in which Alan, our pilot, uses an app to find the landing position. In the short term, the True North received clearance for the route from Bougainville's air traffic control, which the Japanese admiral Yamamoto Isoroto may have chosen for his small squadron on April 18, 1943. Admiral Yamomoto, who triggered America's entry into World War II with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, remained a dangerous enemy to the United States for as long as he lived. Operation Vengeance (revenge) began after American intelligence was able to decode an encrypted Japanese radio message.The True North is navigated in a helicopter using a tablet / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

The True North is navigated in a helicopter using a tablet / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Unlike the Australians, who are more familiar with the history of World War II in the Pacific, I have no particular expectations of the lonely plane wreck lying in the impenetrable hinterland. But the course of our mission should be a memorable experience.In the bar lounge of the True North, Papua New Guinea expert Simon Tewson provides information on local history and maintains contact with a number of local contacts / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

In the bar lounge of True North, Papua New Guinea expert Simon Tewson provides information about the country when he is not in contact with a number of local contacts / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

40 minutes ago we started from our ship, the True North, in clear weather and from the cockpit the pilot Alan and Simon together look for the place where we are expected. Simon made an appointment with the residents of a village two hours away to prepare a small patch near the crash site for our landing. Roads or clearly visible markings cannot be seen in the jungle. The aircraft wreck itself is camouflaged by the vegetation. In addition, heavy rain showers with poor visibility shake our helicopter on the way.The colored screens of the people waiting for us can be seen from the air / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg

The colored screens of the people waiting for us can be seen from the air / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg

Near the suspected position, we discover a surprisingly large number of people who are already waiting for us. A helicopter does not need windshield wipers itself and for the same reason it blows away all the umbrellas of the bystanders when landing.A mixture of fear and curiosity awaits us after landing / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

A mixture of fear and curiosity awaits us after landing / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Rarely do strangers make the arduous journey to the prominent plane wreck and nobody has seen another helicopter land here. So the situation is extremely unusual for everyone. I have often had the experience of attracting attention from people who have never seen anyone with white skin. But here the expectations are particularly high and each of our movements is observed in silence.Shy contact in the pouring rain / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Shy contact in the pouring rain / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

We are also unsure; not only because the ground is soft from the rain. But people have cleared countless shrubs with their bush knives, the leaves of which, like a mat, prevent you from sinking too deep.A helicopter looks like a heavenly appearance. The word for helicopter in the Pidgin language is meaningful: Mixmaster belong to Jesus-Christ / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

A helicopter looks like a heavenly appearance. The word for helicopter in the Pidgin language is meaningful: Mixmaster belong to Jesus-Christ / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

In contrast to the bystanders, who took a full day to witness the spectacle of a helicopter landing, we only came briefly and primarily because of the famous Yamamoto plane wreck.On the way to the plane wreck / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

On the way to the plane wreck / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

On the way to the crash site, there are a few opportunities to talk. Even with children you can communicate in English and everyone helps in rough terrain.More than a hundred people walked to the Yamomoto crash site for two hours / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

More than a hundred people came to our landing from far away and accompany us the last few meters to Yamamoto's plane wreck / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The life jackets from the helicopter remain on even when you are on the ground, so that we do not have to search for them before departure / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg
We also keep the life jackets from the helicopter on the ground so that we do not have to search for them before departure / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

The goal has been reached, but it does not want the shudder that I would have associated with the performance of the past drama. Everyday objects like bows and arrows or the bush knives of the bystanders keep me in the present.The tail of the Japanese Mitsubishi bomber is still clearly recognizable 70 years after the launch / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

The tail of the Japanese Mitsubishi bomber is still clearly visible 70 years after the launch. In contrast to the failed war machine, the everyday objects of use bow and arrow / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Locals try to understand why tourists are particularly interested in the historic plane wreck. Bougainville is currently experiencing the successful end of an ecological revolution. With a large majority, the people decided in a referendum to disengage from Papua New Guinea because they no longer want to be a plaything of foreign powers.Umbrellas and T-shirts bear the motif of the Bougainville flag / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

The motif of the Bougainville flag is proudly worn on umbrellas and T-shirts / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
Effective: umbrella made of leaves / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
Effective: improvised umbrella made of leaves that don't have to be searched for long / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
Helicopter pilot Alan is interested in the details of the old aircraft / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The helicopter pilot is interested in the details of the old aircraft / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The future belongs to eco-technology / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The future belongs to technology made from renewable raw materials / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

The trip to the plane wreck made me think. Especially afterwards. Because in the situation there was little time to process the many impressions. How much more extreme must our short visit have had on the locals? Who only a few years ago fought with primitive weapons against the armored government army of Papua New Guinea for an intact nature and against a mine that poisoned entire areas. Their lives are deprived but also more contemplative than ours. I imagine that even during the Second World War and at this point, hardly anyone suspected the importance of the event, which is why we made our way here with immense effort.Pineapple and melon with an insecure look but deeply offered accompany us on the way back / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Pineapple and melon, offered with an insecure look but deeply cordial, accompany us on the return flight / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Today, the people of Bougainville hope that the world's youngest country will welcome them as kindly as they treat their visitors. Shortly before departure we receive fresh fruit as a gift and can never forget this experience. Also because you would have liked to have had more time for discussions.We quickly get on the helicopter before the weather gets worse / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg

We board the helicopter for the return flight before the weather gets worse / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg