Investigation of a Grumman TBF "Avenger" aircraft submerged in Majuro Lagoon
by Dirk H.R. Spennemann


The Republic of the Marshall Islands Historic Preservation Office has the mandate to survey and inventory extant cultural and historical resources in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

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


Description of the Plane Remains

The remains of the plane rest in two locations: on the oceanside reef platform of Bok-allep Island and at the bottom of a sediment fan between Bok-allep and Lijiboro Islands in 140 feet in Majuro Lagoon.

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

The main part of the plane seem to have been washed down a sediment fan between the islands of Bok-allep and Lijeboro. Extant are the wings parts of the engine mounting and parts of the fuselage, extending behind the tail gunners position. The cock-pit is stripped of all armature and the rear machine gun has been removed at one point in time, most likely before the plane became submerged. The port wing of the plane is at about 140 feet, while the starboard wing is at about 120 feet. The plane is partially covered with smooth sand from the sediment fan. depending on current conditions the sand coverage seem to more or less extensive. Some divers attempting to find the plane have failed to so despite good instructions. It is possible that most parts of the wings, which are by far the visually most distinctive part of the wreckage from a greater distance have ben completely covered up with sand.

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.


Historic Background

The historical background on the plane is unclear. As far as has been ascertained there was no air action over Majuro with the exception of the crash of a B-24 Liberator bomber on a reef platform off Laura (Spennemann 1992).

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.


Management Issues

The plane wreck is very deep (140 feet) and thus inaccessible to most recreational divers. On the whole the wreck seems to be in a good condition. Since the plane was apparently thoroughly cannibalised before it became submerged there are no keep sakes left, which would attract a `collector" among the divers.

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..
URL: http:/

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

(c) Dirk H.R. Spennemann 1992-2000
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