On cold days like today when the trees are bare and the wind blows cold, I am reminded of the heat and humidity that are Chuuk at this very moment on the other side of the world. Nestled in the leafy tropical trees and hidden from the causal observer are ruins such as these… a place time has forgotten and is now only known to those that walk by on the way to school, a job or home. It is here that I wish to be today, surveying and digging for clues to those lost fifteen men of the Hawaii Clipper that are still waiting to come home.
In this particular building, on the island of Fefan in Truk Lagoon, famed Marine fighter ace Greg “Pappy” Boyington was held for a short while after being shot down. He had been picked up by a Japanese submarine and eventually taken to Truk where as he was stepping out of a Japanese transport aircraft, was strafed by American planes during Operation Hailstone.
As described to me by a local islander, he and other captured POWs jumped into a nearby ditch adjacent to the airfield when all of a sudden a Japanese plane belly landed and came to rest nearly alongside them. The furious pilot leaped from his downed aircraft and spotted the Allied aviators in the ravine. Incensed, the Japanese pilot rushed across the runway and stood at the top of the ditch looking down at Pappy and then tapped the side of his holstered pistol and said “If you bomb here.. you die!” What happened next is typical for Boyington in that he ran up the hill to come face to face with his enemy of the air and yelled while bombs were being dropped around them “Well you dumb son of a bitch… it couldn’t get much more worse than it is now right?”