searching for executed WWII MIA and innocents in Palau

Searching for Executed WWII MIA and Innocents in Palau


December 22, 2017


November 2017, Palau Jungle – Glenn Frano shares his first mission with BentProp and Project recover while searching for executed WWII MIA and innocents in Palau.

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Searching for Executed WWII MIA and Innocents in Palau

My first mission to Palau jungle searching for executed WWII MIA and innocents with BentProp was challenging, rewarding, and inspiring. This trip we searched for evidence of three United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-24 crew members, three US Navy crew members of an underwater demolition team (UDT), a British national citizen, six Jesuit missionaries, and four members of a Filipino family (including two children).

Working with a dedicated and passionate team of BentProp members each day along with our fantastic local Palauan guide Joe and an excellent ordnance specialist, Leonard, from Cleared Ground, made this a most interesting field survey. I felt that the mix of talents made for an improved search of possible evidence of WWII execution sites within the Gasupan Hill area (occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army and other Japanese units during WWII). Our mission talents included archaeology, medicine/medical, cultural, historical, military, local knowledge of flora and fauna, mapping and ordnance (to name a few). This mix contributed greatly to performing a successful field survey.

Three Years Later

This mission was relatively short, about a week. For me, it was my longest travel to date…over 8,600 miles from home to Palau. This was my first field mission with BentProp almost three years to the day after I saw the 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper segment about BentProp in November 2014, which inspired me to volunteer with their organization!

The Trip

Searching for executed WWII MIA and innocents We made six treks, over six days, into the field. We had a series of new custom maps to aid in our field survey, to include one with 1944 aerial photography which portrayed the historical landscape of the area, revealing former roads and structures during WWII. This helped the team navigate to areas of interest. All of the real-time maps used Global Positioning System or GPS tools displayed on a small tablet device.

The team found numerous WWII roads with this technique and was able to “visualize” the 1944 landscape in relation to the current situation on the ground. This further aided our efforts in evaluating testimonial drawings and descriptions from the Guam War Crimes Trials. A great addition to the 1944 aerial photos we compared for the current Gasupan Hill landscape.

Another BentProp team member, Mark Swank, had done an earlier, extensive evaluation of the area coupled with field surveys. This was extremely helpful in conducting this continued effort. Many thanks to Mark!

The boat trip and interview by Pat Scannon with Fauna about her recollections of her Father’s eyewitness account of the execution of a Navy TBM Avenger crew member was very helpful. Our land guide and the captain is Joe, a 20-year waterman of Palau. Fauna and her husband were very gracious and supportive of our request to review the historical events of that tragic day. We gained excellent insight into what hopefully will lead to discovery and repatriation of a US Navy crew member.

The Experience

This was a great team effort and as a new team member in the field, I gained some excellent insight into a new culture and the wonderful people of Palau. I had what may be the best milkshake I’ve had at a small roadside stand called Bem Ermii…wow!  Charlie and I even tried some fried banana offered to us by a nice Palauan man who stopped by when we were enjoying a Bem Ermii milkshake in Koror.

The hotel where we stayed was a nice respite after our hot, sweaty time in the field. Yep, it was hot and humid and we saw some incredible landscape. Walking through Ito Fern was an experience for sure…slow going and hot when the sun is out.

Meeting Steve and Cassandra of Cleared Ground was informative and they were helpful to our mission. Leonard, on their staff, was great…and I enjoyed the cucumbers he offered while in the field.  We also met some great folks at the local restaurants…great food and company (Kramer’s, The Taj, Palm Bay).  A big thanks to our local guide Joe…we had GPS, but definitely needed Joe to guide us through the best routes, etc. He is amazing.

We went to the Capitol building to meet with local Historical Preservation Office staff to obtain our site survey permit. Many thanks to their staff for allowing us to perform our work on Babeldaob island.

Thank You

Many thanks too to the BentProp team – Pat Scannon, Jolie Liston, Derek Abbey, and Charlie Brown. You made this searching for executed WWII MIA and innocents a rewarding and educational experience. Jolie was very helpful in providing insight into the Palau culture. I learned a lot from her years of experience in field archaeology. Pat and Derek bring incredible experience, knowledge as well as passion and pride into this important work. Charlie, my co-partner in being a first-time field mission member was very passionate as well, taking GPS tracks and coordinates, field pictures…and provided some lighter moments and quips. Thanks Charlie!

We are getting closer to finding our missing in action, as they deserve our support for the sacrifice they made in defense of freedom.

Glenn Frano

Read other posts about Project Recover’s Missions to Palau:

Read posts about Project Recover’s 2018 Mission to the Solomon Islands:


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