The Swamp Ghost

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
This old relic, is an early B17E that has rest in a Papua New Guinie swamp since a belly landing in 1942.

Its been recovered, but the Papua NG govt has it on impound for the time being.

The Swamp Ghost
I really don't believe it is Papua New Guinea's plane sorry. Fair enough if they had paid part of the cost of salvage etc, but I believe this was an attempt to take the benefit of someone else's salvage work. Papua New Guinea has had this plane for so long and never attempted to recover it because after all there have been at least 62 years since the end of WW2 to recover the bomber which haven't been taken. Someone else recovers it and they jump in. Fair enough giving them some aircraft but a B-17 in good condition should go to somewhere where it can be restored if possible to flying condition. I don't believe the Papua New Guinea government would do that...
they only want it for $$ or something
Did you see the turret in the pics its the early Bendix remote controlled one not the ball turret and it's not crushed!!
I read in an artical in the "Smithsonian" magazine that, if Hagan sucessfully exports it after all the legalities were dealt with (which seems likely) that he plans to restore it and fly it himself. Originally he planned to own and opperate it privately, but as this would be so costly there was talk of leasing it to the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. In such a situation he would want to be able to fly it himself once in awhile, an idea that the museum is dubious about as the B-17E is so rare (particularly with that model turret intact). Maby Planes of Fame would be interested...

Either way this can't end up anywhere as tragic as what happened with the Key-Bird B-29 in Greenland.
If you have Google Earth, you can see it still laying in the swamp prior to recovery. A pretty fair image, too.
Its coordinates are as follows:
9d 11'53" S
148d 39'42" E

Technically, US naval equipment still belongs to the US provided certain criteria is met according to the following website:
Navy Shipwrecks and Aircraft Losses

Unfortunately, this was a US Army aircraft and probably falls under the criteria as layed out according to the following website:
Is unexploded World War II ammunition abandoned property

My opinion is simple; what is legally right is not always what is morally right. These aircraft- Japanese ones in particular- are extremely rare. Recovery for the purpose of restoration (even if only for static display purposes) is extremely important and essential if for no other reason than to preserve the history of a by-gone era.


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I believe the Papua New Guinea govenment just stood around waiting for
someone to salvage it, then they confiscated it. I believe it was about to
be loaded on a ship when they stepped in. There was a big story, including
the New Guinea side of it on one of the Pacific Wrecks website. They also
included charges of "wrong-doing" by the civil servants who gave the permits
for the salvage. This will probably stay tied up in court for years and years.

To bad the US goverment doesnt step in and take the aircraft. Then give it to some organization that will restore it properly to put it back in the air, since it still is considered US property.
Actually it's not US property, as was stated earlier the laws state that USAF (or USAAF) aircraft lost prior to 1962 (iirc) is up for grabs for salvage unless it sunk (presumably at sea) though a good lawyer could argue sunk in a swamp could apply. The Navy has no such legislation and all lost aircraft are US property untill they say otherwise.

What is really interesting is that when the Swamp Ghost was rediscovered in 1972 it was found to still have all its instruments and guns intact (still loaded with ammo!) and they even found a thermos containing what was once coffee. Unfortunately over the years the craft has been stripped of its guns and flight yolks among other things. It would have been great to have an all original aircraft but oh well...

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