P-MAN XIII Update #14 - Casey Doyle, cub reporter, steps up to the keyboard

18 March

Casey attempts to write something cognitive - TAKE ONE.

So today was my first day in Palau, and my first day on the BentProp team. And in true BentProp fashion, my plans for the trip had changed by the end of the day, but I’ll get to that later.

After not being able to sleep most of the night, I was up early to take in a run around the hotel area. “Breathtaking” and “utter amazement” are the only words that really come to mind for me to describe the sunrise over the jungle, the islands, and Malakal harbor. Quite a sight to take in.


Derek and Joe - breakfast at Palm Bistro

Joe met up with Derek and me for breakfast at Palm Bistro [next-door to our hotel, and by pure coincidence, co-located with the Red Rooster Brewery], and we discussed all the people that we would attempt to track down today. In order to keep the rest of the trip flowing smoothly, we would like to make contact today with most of the local governors, the US Ambassador to Palau, and the President of Palau, President Johnson Toribiong. Unfortunatelly, the combination of island time and it being a Friday meant that we could only meet up with one governor. Fortunately, Dan O’Brian had already submitted all required permits for the team during last month's sonar survey trip, and all that was required today was courtesy calls. But the US Ambassador was very generous with her time, allowing us at least a half-hour to discuss all of our proposed mission objectives. She was very well versed in the BentProp work and the “Last Flight Home” documentary. After several engaging questions and a couple of pictures, we were off again. Derek treated me to my first Bem Ermii chocolate shake, which was accompanied by my first Bem Ermii brain freeze.

President Johnson Toribiong was busy wrapping up some post-tsunami-alert after-action items with his government officials, but squeezed us in for a short meeting in the afternoon. As always, he was pleased to see BentProp return and not only granted the team permission to return to the '453 B-24*, he insisted on coming with us.


L-R: President Johnson Toribiong, Derek Abbey, Joe Maldangesang, Casey Doyle.
Yes, Casey is smiling. That's how they smile in west Texas. By the end of this expedition,
we'll have him smiling like they smile in Palau.

So... that set me on a mission to get my open-water SCUBA qualification, quick! (Short Aside: I personally failed in prepping for this trip because I couldn’t quite fit my SCUBA certification into my work schedule back in Texas. But the President basically called me out.) Thankfully, Joe came to the rescue! With a couple of phone calls and some of the old Joe charm, I was set up with a personal class starting this Sunday. Only a little homework and a few individual classes and I’ll be set up with a PADI certification. Thank you, Joe!

Before picking up Warren at the airport, Derek and I had enough time to fit in some snorkeling in the harbor. Fantastic! And to make the short swim extremely interesting, we got to see a rare lion fish a few feet below us.


Afternoon snorkeling location.

Anyway, the three of us are ending the night at Krämers, and I’m off to do my PADI homework.

- Casey Doyle

* The '453 refers to B-24J #42-73453, which was shot down between Koror and Babeldaob on 1 September 1944. Aboard that aircraft was nose gunner SSgt. Jimmie Doyle - Casey's grandfather. The BentProp team located and identified the underwater crash site of the '453 in 2004 and JPAC, during three underwater recovery missions between 2005 and 2008, recovered remains of all eight men who went down with the aircraft. Jimmie's remains were positively identified and returned to the family for burial in west Texas - and Casey, who is an active-duty Marine Major, was the formal military escort for his grandfather's remains from JPAC in Honolulu to Lamesa, Texas. The eight crew members were also honored at an amazing group service at Arlington National Cemetery in April 2010, which was attended by Palauan President Toribiong, who came to the U.S. specifically to attend that service. THAT's why the President's calling-out of Casey is an offer Casey can't refuse...

- Reid