The intact Nakajima B5N “Kate” of Kavieng, Papua New Guinea, by Rod Pearce

WW2 Pacific treasures

By Pierre Kosmidis

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Rod Pearce has dedicated his time and efforts finding underwater aircraft wrecks and seeking closure to the families of hundreds -if not thousands- of Missing in Action (MIA) airmen from all nations that fought during World War Two.

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Rod has been diving in Papua New Guinea for 40 years and is credited with discovering most of its best underwater wrecks, including B-17F “Black Jack” 41-24521 and co-finding s’Jacob, along with many other WW2 shipwrecks and aircraft.

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“I have been working with the American nonprofit organization called Pacific Wrecks for the past ten years or so “Rod says and adds:

 “While Justin Taylan -founder and director of Pacific Wrecks- and the rest of his team has mainly been focused on our overland-work, and for the last two years has had a US government contract to investigate MIAs in Papua New Guinea, my interest and focus has always been the underwater side.
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Together I’d say we make a pretty good team for doing what we do”.

Rod says: “Lying on the seafloor is the wreck of a Japanese “Kate” bomber. The plane is in reasonable good condition, given its time underwater, and is relatively intact with its propeller still in place.

The wreck is located in 37 metres of water and, although virtually nothing is known about the history of the plane, it was probably put down there so the crew of three would be able to escape and swim ashore.

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Whether the plane was shot down, or simply ran out of fuel, will never be known – but the presence of a big tear on the right wing tends to indicate it was hit by a/a fire”. 

The “Kate” is actually a Nakajima B5N torpedo bomber used extensively by the Japanese Navy during WWII.

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The Kate name comes from the way the Allied Forces identified Japanese aircraft during WWII – western mens names were given to fighter aircraft, women’s names to bombers and transport planes, bird names to gliders and tree names to trainer aircraft.

Designed in 1935 the Nakajima B5N was technically obsolete by the time it saw service in WWII, but it still out-performed most of the Allied aircraft it came up against in the early days of the war.

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A fleet of Kate torpedo bombers were used in the notorious surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and they played a major role in the destruction of the US Battle Fleet.