The Swamp Ghost

New York Times
April 30, 1942

Members of a bomber's crew trapped in New Guinea Swamp After Force Landing  Some Became Delirious  After Reaching Land They had to Journey Nearly Five Weeks to Reach Port Moresby

At United Nations Headquarters, Australia, April 29 (U.P) The road to safety lay only five miles away - but nine crew members of an American bomber that made a forced landing in the New Guinea wilds went through four nights and three days in 'green hell' before finally reaching it.

The journey back to Port Moresby took five weeks. Lieut. George Munroe of Kirkwood, Mo., was the plane's navigator. The pilot was Lieutenant Fred Eaton of New York and the co-pilot H. M. Harlow of Charlottesville, Va. All nine men are back on duty after having spent a week in a hospital.

After raiding Rabaul on New Britain Island the plane ran out of gas over southern New Guinea so Lieutenant Eaton picked a place to land. From the air it looked like a grassy field but it was a swamp covered with three or four feet of water and thick march grass.

Lieutenant Munroe suffered a slight head cut during the landing but the others were unhurt. Lieutenant Eaton radioed his base that he had made a crash landing.

The men could see a range of hills sticking above the swamp five miles away. They plunged into the swamp and were immediately in water. They traveled entirely by compass.

"Every step we took, we had a bend n the grass aside or hack a path with long jungle knives" Lieutenant Munroe continued. "Sometimes the water was quite shallow - only a foot or so deep - but most of the time we were up to our waists."

"Once we tried floating down a stream on logs. Some of the boys lost their shoes and our emergency rations became soaked and uneatable. We slept in the swamps, cutting down arm arm full of grass and making mounds to lie on. But the grass quickly caked down until we were in the water.

It didn't matter much because it rained nearly every night. Anyway, we were up trying to catch rainwater to drink

Once we hit a piece of dry land. But the mosquitoes were so bad none of us could sleep. The combination of not eating, not sleeping, and general exhaustion made us all a little crazy. Most of us got delirious. One man dreamed he was in a plane. Another was convinced that a mess hall was just across the road."

The party finally reached a village where natives gave them some food.

"We stayed in the village one night and then started down river in a naive canoe" Lieutenant Munroe said. "When we reached the coast we found the Resident Commissioner he had been sent to look for us. He took us to a station up the coast, where we still were miles from anywhere.

"We had to pack up and go on a trek once more - this time with native porters. We marched forty miles inland to another station and kicked around there for quite some time. Finally we headed back for the coast again. The commissioner fixed us up some small native boats in which we made our way by easy stages to Port Moresby."

          B-17E 41-2446 art by Jack Fellows via IHRP

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