The Swamp Ghost

Bittersweet ending for 'Swamp Ghost'

The National [ February 4, 2010 | Read Article Online ]

IT IS indeed sad and an embarrassment that we have to lose part of this country’s heritage to the United States, although for an aviation enthusiast like me, the shipping of the “Swamp Ghost” out of PNG is bittersweet (The National, Jan 26).
I am sad that Papua New Guineans do not value many of these World War 2 wrecks. This certain B17 Fortress is world famous and known by many. We have failed, and the Government has failed in preserving this and other aircraft.
It is sad that we do not have many war museums (or many other museums for that matter). It is good to see that there are however some that have taken matters to their own hands to attempt to preserve our World War 2 history by collecting odd bits and keeping them.
However, we need to preserve our heritage by keeping them in museums so that we, our children and visitors can enjoy viewing and learning about them.
“Concerned” said in his letter that removing the B17 was irresponsible and disrespecting our forefathers who died in the war. What is disrespecting to our forefathers is that we deface monuments erected in their memory; we allow relics to rot in the jungles and in swamps and we fail to educate our young about our history because we reckon this is not our responsibility.
Not many Papua New Guineans know much about PNG history. Sadder still is that not many young people find PNG history interesting. The Government and Papua New Guineans do not seem to see the importance of history. Museums are an important tool for preservation of history and a means of developing patriotism.
And for our part, we can honour our forefathers by taking our young to Remembrance Day ceremonies and telling them stories we were told as children. Now many of us are educated we should take responsibility and record these stories for posterity.
PNG culture and tradition were passed down generations through story telling, now as we move further into the information age I hope, one day, we can have information about our history available to all at easy-to-get-to places, like museums. I hope that one day the aviation history of PNG will be displayed for all to see.
Aviation was crucial to PNG’s development and still is today. How many people know that in the 1930s more cargo was flown to the goldfields of Wau and Bulolo than the whole world put together, that one of the top ranking WW2 Japanese aces was based in Rabaul, or how we got our aircraft registration code P2, that the first plane in Moresby landed at Ela Beach, that our main airport Jackson is named after an Australian WW2 ace and that the first fighter planes to defend Port Moresby were based there or that parts of Ward Strip and Five-Mile in the NCD were extensions of that airfield?
I am sad to see the “Swamp Ghost” leave but I know she goes to a better home where she will be given better treatment, and maybe one day when we learn to care for our history the people of the United States could return her. She carries with her, her own history, which includes PNG.
The swamp that was her home since she brought her crew to safety has kept her safe from corrosion, hopefully enough to restore her so she will be among very few B17s (about 58, of which 12 are airworthy) that have been patched up and preserved.
I can she her now, up there with the Memphis Belle and Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby, she deserves it.

Carl Pearson,

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

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