Adaptive re-use of B-24 parts in the Marshall Islands
by Dirk HR Spennemann

The abundance of military sites and remains of the Pacific War meant that many structures and objects found secondary uses after the war. In several instances, Japanese bunkers and the like are now utilised as sheds, storage facilities and pig sties, and larger structures, such as Japanese air command centres or ammunitions depots, are used for generator buildings and construction storage sheds or outright human habitation. A bomb and ammunition storage building on Wotje, which is in perfect structural condition, is used as a power house for the Wotje Northern Marshalls High School. The air operations buildings on Wotje and Taroa (both Republic of the Marshall Islands) are being used as a private dwellings, while the same type of building on Aslito Field in Saipan serves as the Northern Marianas Visitors Bureau. The radio-direction finding and command building of the Japanese base on Taroa even serves as a church.

Left: Photograph of a B-24 oxygen cylinder used as a cooking pot on Wotje Island, Wotje Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Photograph: Dirk H.R. Spennemann.

Aluminium salvaged from crashed aircraft was a source of metal for coconut-grinder blades, husking-stick points and other artefacts throughout the 1950s. A Japanese Aichi D3A "Val" dive-bomber which crash-landed in January or February 1944 on the shore of Laura, next to the main population centre of Majuro Atoll (Republic of the Marshall Islands) was complete in February 1944, save for its tail which had been torn off, but stripped of almost all of its aluminium skin barely a month later. However, such use is not confined to the immediate post-World War II period: aluminium from World War II aircraft was used as recently as 1989 as casting aids for concrete water tanks on Taroa, Maloelap Atoll, and the fuselage of a Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" medium range bomber was flattened out and used as a side wall for a private dwelling on Arbar Island, Mile Atoll.

Thus it is not surprising that the remains of B-24 aircraft found secondary uses as well, such as the B-24 wreck off Jab'u Island on Arno Atoll. While some of the fuselage disintegrated due to environmental action, some was salvaged and carried off to be used for a second 'life'. Large pieces of fuselage, however, are no longer identifiable as such, unless still located at the crash site (see the plane wrecks on Arno and Majuro).

A unique use was found for a propeller blade of the B-24 which crashed on Majuro Atoll in December 1943. A blade was removed from the port no. 1 engine and placed next to a pile of coral boulders marking the entrance of a sublagoon at Laura Island, some 3km from the crash site. Here the propeller blade acts as night-time navigational marker and its shiny metal is used as a reflector to guide the way through a tricky lagoonal pass.

Right: Photograph of a B-24 oxygen cylinder used as a cooking pot on Mejatto Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Photograph: Dirk H.R. Spennemann.

The most common and the most enduring use found for parts of B-24 aircraft are the aluminium cylinders, originally installed as an oxygen supply for high altitude missions. A standard Liberator would carry at least 10 of these cyclinders. Today, these aluminium cylinders are found cut in half, either length wise or, more commonly, across to serve as cooking pots. Due to their large size and round bottoms those pots most suitable for use in open fireplaces. Such 'pots' have been seen by the author on the following locations in the Republic of the Marshall Islands: All of these islands have seen long-range bombing by 7th AAF squadrons, and B-24 crashes are confirmed for all these atolls with the exception of Ailinglaplap. However, the nature of the cylinders meant that they would float and thus could well originate from planes which crashed on the open sea or exploded in mid-air. Ailinglaplap, then, is downwind and down-current of Majuro and Maloelap and close to the flight route from Kiribati (then the Gilbert Islands) to Kwajalein Atoll.

While today only few if any of the users of these posts are aware of their origins, these pots are a good example of secondary use and an incorporation into a new cultural record.

Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1995) Adaptive re-use of B-24 parts in the Marshall Islands.
URL: http:/

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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