new-banner_ae3

There is very little known about a search project based out of Australia that has been searching for the Amelia Earhart Lockheed Electra aircraft missing since July 1937.

Theories about Amelia Earhart abound

Although there are a few theories concerning the disappearance of the Earhart aircraft, only one search project has any evidence from the era when the aircraft went missing. This project searches for the Earhart Electra on New Britain Island in Papua New Guinea.

A World War Two Patrol

This evidence became known as the result of a World War Two Australian Army patrol on New Britain Island in April 1945. Unexpectedly, a Japanese scouting party fired on the lead Australian scout. Rifle fire was returned to the Japanese and one of the Japanese was heard to cry out. The Australian scout rolled left and rejoined his patrol group. The Australian patrol followed the tracks of the Japanese party as their reconnaissance mission orders led them in that direction. The Japanese tracks led to a river where the mark of a small canoe indicated that the Japanese had gone across the river.

The Australian patrol followed their orders and later camped for the night. When the Australian patrol checked in to base by radio, they heard that they were being followed by a larger party of Japanese. The patrol feared an ambush by returning along the same route by the river. Instead, they decided to climb to a ridgeline. This path to the southeast would lead them back in the direction of their base.

A Find in the Jungle

The Search Area..... Mevelo River Valley with Henry Reid Bay at the top. View is looking to the South-east.

The Search Area….. Mevelo River Valley with Henry Reid Bay at the top. View is looking to the South-east.

As they progressed, the Point Man saw a large object 20 feet ahead of him standing proud of the jungle floor. He fell to the ground with his rifle raised, ready to shoot. What he saw in the centre of the mound ahead was a three to four inch tube looking back at him. He immediately took it to be a gun emplacement. There was no response so he relaxed somewhat and signaled for the Patrol Leader to come ahead.

The Leader and the Deputy Leader removed vines and leaf debris from the object. An aircraft engine in an aluminum nacelle was revealed. The Patrol Leader surveyed the area. He saw another larger mound about 30 yards ahead with a thirty to forty foot gap in the trees overhead. The Leader discovered the wreck of an aircraft covered in vines and tree debris. There were no military markings on the unpainted wreck and one engine was still attached to the airframe. While standing on the left-hand side wing he could see the cockpit area was smashed backwards.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Patrol Leader looked inside the burst open nacelle for any identification. He did see the words “Pratt & Whitney” on the engine. He saw a metal tag hanging by wire from an engine mount tube. It had letters and numbers that meant nothing to him. He put the tag in his pocket for safekeeping to go along with the patrol report when they returned to base.

Due to the warning that they were being followed, the Patrol Leader ordered the patrol to continue. The rearguard party stayed behind for 30 minutes and then raced after the main party. The Leader and his Deputy considered the wreck to be American in origin and reported the find back at base. Five weeks later they heard that the wreck did not belong to the United States Army Air Force. The engine they had seen was a “Wasp” engine.

The Wreck

19 April 1945 Message Form, originally to be sent at 11:00 am; this SITREP finally was sent at 2:00 pm. This message was sent from the 11th Infantry Battalion to its higher headquarters, 13th Infantry Brigade. Note the sentence on the second to the last line, "Report Patrol A1 attached with A/C plates". Circles with center dots are sentence breaks.

19 April 1945 Message Form, originally to be sent at 11:00 am; this SITREP finally was sent at 2:00 pm. This message was sent from the 11th Infantry Battalion to its higher headquarters, 13th Infantry Brigade. Note the sentence on the second to the last line, “Report Patrol A1 attached with A/C plates”. Circles with center dots are sentence breaks.

The wreck was not a WWII wreck. It was all-metal with two engines and bore no military insignia. There was heavy corrosion on the front of the engine nacelle ring that looked like lacework. To the Patrol Leader, the wreck looked as if it had been there a number of years. The war in this particular area had been on for three years. They handed in the tag with the patrol report.

The War ends

At the end of the war, their commanding officer informed them they would be leaving Rabaul and returning to Australia. Any equipment they did not want was to be burned. One man retrieved a map case from the pile of discarded equipment. He removed a map from the case and returned the map case to the pile. He took the map back to Australia with him as a keepsake.

Modern enlightenment

In 1990, the “on point” Army Veteran who almost bumped into the engine was watching a TV program concerning Amelia Earhart. He heard that her airplane engines were Pratt & Whitney “Wasp” engines. He wondered if the engine they found could be one of her engines. Later he had his account of the episode published in the “West Australian” newspaper.

In 1993, this same Army Veteran accidently met the former Company Clerk who had retrieved the map from the map case. The Clerk mentioned that he had seen the story in the newspaper concerning the WWII Patrol and the find in the jungle. He mentioned that he had a map that he retrieved from New Guinea and that he would send the map to the “Point Man”. He did send the map.

unnamed-2

“600 H/P S3H1 C/N 1055” is referenced in the margin of Infantry Patrol A1’s map.

In 1994, some writing was found on the map which was hidden by a folded and taped over portion of the map border. It gave details from the Infantry Patrol A1 who found the engine and wreckage. There is also a reference added. This reference reads: “Ref: 600 H/P S3H1 C/N 1055″.

The Meaning of the Writing

The string of letters and numbers means little to a non-aviation person. However, to anyone versed in aviation it means: 600 Horsepower, Pratt & Whitney R-1340 S3H1, Construction Number 1055.

Construction Number “1055” was the number assigned to the Lockheed Electra Model 10E that belonged to Amelia Earhart. That Electra was the 55th Model 10 built by Lockheed, hence “C/N 1055”. The Electra was powered by Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines designated “R-1340 S3H1” with a rating of 600 Horsepower when 100 Octane petroleum was used. The S3H1 part of the designation signifies a “Civilian” engine. In Military use, the engine designation would be “R-1340 AN-1”.

Summation

I can find no use of the Pratt and Whitney Wasp AN-1 engine during WWII to power aircraft in New Guinea. I checked on this just in case a few civilian engines somehow managed to slip through into the military. Most twin-engine aircraft in use during the New Guinea campaign were bomber or transport aircraft. They had larger engines in the 1100 to 1200 Horsepower range or greater. Twin-engine fighter aircraft also had larger engines.

The WWII Patrol Coded 'A1', we do believe, had actually discovered Amelia Earhart’s missing Electra on that hillside in New Britain.Click To Tweet

The WWII Patrol Coded “A1”, we do believe, had actually discovered Amelia Earhart’s missing Electra on that hillside in New Britain. That was not known to them at that time in 1945. They had no idea that it belonged to Amelia Earhart and only considered it to be “American”. Our search project has been into the jungle several times looking for it. We now know that it is buried. How we know this and all the other details about this fascinating project are contained on the website:

www.earhartsearchpng.com

This information is a different approach to solving the intriguing mystery of Amelia Earhart’s missing Electra.

David Billings

Editor’s Note: This article is meant to be an appetizer to the nine-part series David has written on his website.  I strongly urge interested people to check out David’s website for more in-depth detail and analysis. If you want to get in contact with David, please use this contact form and I will forward it on to him.