By EVAH BANIGE
PAPUA New Guinea’s most famous war relic, the WWII, B-17 Flying Fortress dubbed the Swamp Ghost, is now at the Lae port ready to be shipped to the United States.
The aircraft was yesterday taken out of the Voco Point timber yard of PNG Forest Products, where it had been sitting for the past three years, and loaded onto three semi-trailers.
The aircraft was last week dismantled and packed when exporter Fred Hagen arrived in Lae.
He was booked into the Lae International Hotel. Messages left for him were not answered.
Mr Hagen, from Philadelphia, is the owner of a construction company.
He set up a company Aero Archeology Ltd in about 2000 to recover the relic.
He has been said to have had no prior experience related to aircraft salvage, restoration or historical matters.
But he has travelled the world looking for WWII wrecks.
It is understood that clearance for the export was given on Sept 10, 2008 by the National Executive Council, against the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee, which in 2006 had found that the salvage from the Agiambo Swamp in Oro province, was illegal.
Agiambo landowner chief Alan Jojoga last week said he, at the behest of Tourism Minister Charles Abel, had accepted the offer of K300,000 to be deposited into a trust account.
The Swamp Ghost, officially known as B17-E serial number 41-2446, was accepted into the US Army on Dec 6, 1941.
It was part of a nine-bomber raid of shipping in Rabaul’s Simpson Harbour on the night of Feb 22, 1942.
During the attack, it was hit by an anti-aircraft shell which passed through its right wing but did not explode.
The aircraft tried to return to Port Moresby’s 7-Mile drome but ran out of fuel and the pilot Capt Henry “Hotfoot” Eaton Jr landed in what he thought was kunai grass.
Instead, he had landed in a swamp and his crew walked away from the crash site, with assistance from local villagers and Australian resident magistrate Alan Champion.