Investigation of a Grumman TBF "Avenger" aircraft submerged in Majuro Lagoon
by Dirk H.R. Spennemann
The archaeological and historical sites and artefacts of the Republic of the Marshall Islands form a finite and unrenewable resource in need of protection and proper management. In order to do so, the Historic Preservation Office conducts a series of graded, systematic surveys. At the lowest level of activity a reconnaissance survey is carried out to determine the extent of the extant information and sites. based on the results of this survey then, a more detailed survey plan is drawn up for future reference and use, once the opportunity arises to continue the work. The geographical spread of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and here especially its non contiguous nature makes survey work within the Republic dependent on the availability of transportation between as well as within atolls.
This report presents a short assessment of the remains of an U.S. aircraft, a Grumman TBF "Avenger" torpedo bomber, which crashed sometime after the U.S. landings in the Marshall Islands on a reef north of Djarrit (Rita) Island, Majuro Atoll.
Figure 1. Map of Majuro Atoll showing the location of Bok-ollap
From the interpretation of the remains it appears that the Avenger crash landed on the reef platform, where the plane was partially or fully cannibalised by U.S. servicemen.
On the ocean shore, in the intertidal zone rests the engine block, while parts of the cylinder heads, as well as parts of manifolds can be found in the shrub of the island. At one point all three propeller blades have been removed; two of them could be pulled off, while the third one was sawn off .
Figure 2. Map of a section of the northern reef of Majuro Atoll showing the location of Bok-ollap
Parts of the fuselage, as well as parts of the tail section can be found higher up on the slope, indicating that the plane partially broke up as it slid down the sediment fan.
Figure 3. Detailed map of the islands of Bok-ollap, Lijeboro and Ane-pororo showing the location of the plane wreck.
Majuro Atoll served as a major fleet anchorage after the Battle of Kwajalein and one of the airfields was used as plane parking area to replenish carrier groups.
In addition, it appears, Majuro Atoll served as intermediate training location for air crews who came out of the mainland. These crews were set against the by-passed Japanese bases of Taroa, Mile, Wotje and Jaluit, where the crews gained limited battle experience before they were sent to the front.
Figure 4. Plan view of the extant remains of a Grumman TBF "Avenger" Torpedo bomber on the bottom of Majuro Lagoon.
The wreckage of the engine block will continue to gradually disintegrate. At present no curation or management options for the engine have been considered.
Archival research to provide further details of the plane and the fate of the crew, as well as the location of historic photographs is needed. The process has been begun by the Historic Preservation Office.
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Originally produced as:
Dirk H.R. Spennemann, 1992, Investigations of a Grumman TBF "Avenger" aircraft in Majuro Lagoon. HPO Report N° 1992/1. Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands: Republic of the Marshall Islands Historic Preservation Office.
Bibliographic citation for this document
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2000). Investigations of a Grumman TBF "Avenger" aircraft submerged in Majuro Lagoon..
Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
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