Scuba diver explores mysterious WWII fighter plane wreck

Japanese zeroes were legendary for their role in the attack on Pearl

Harbor in World War II. They became even more infamous after becoming

the tool for kamikaze suicidal pilots during second world war.

Divers exploring this wreck didn’t fully understand the mystery

behind the plane until later that night when their boat Captain, Alan

Raabe began telling them the dark, yet fascinating tale. This Japanese

Zero has a mysterious history that has only recently come to light.

The wreck of this plane was found in 2004 by a villager in Papua New

Guinea, William Nui, who was freediving for sea cucumbers to feed his

family. When he saw it, he first thought it was the wreck of a small

passenger plane that had been lost several days before after taking

off from Hoskins Airport in Papua New Guinea. But when he dove again

and inspected it closer, he saw that it was a much older wreck.

He informed the local authorities and word spread to the ears of a man

named Max Benjamin. Max runs the Walindi resort and dive operation. He

dove on the wreck to investigate the mysterious discovery and to learn

more about it. He found it in remarkable condition, with no signs of

combat damage or bullet holes. This suggests that the pilot was not

shot down. The throttle lever and pitch control were in a position

that suggested that the plane was likely running out of fuel and that

the pilot had executed a controlled water landing, probably after

becoming lost.

Using the serial number of the plane and factual war records, Max

learned that the plane had taken off from West New Britain on December

26th 1944, flown by Tomiharu Honda. Records show that planes making

such emergency landings after running out of fuel were not uncommon in

the Pacific during WWII. Honda was obviously a skilled pilot to

conduct a water landing that placed him 50m (150 feet) from shore in

an undamaged plane.

Although the wreckage of the plane tells us the story of what happened

to the pilot that day, what happened to him afterwards remains a

mystery. Stories of the local villagers suggest that Honda was helped

to the village of Talasea. While this may be true, cannibalism was

still practiced in that time and some people believe that he may not

have survived long after his landing. His fate remains unknown. There

is no record of him making it home.

This dive site and the history behind the wreck provide scuba divers

with a fascinating place to explore. Walindi Resort and the MV FeBrina

dive boat make this excursion regularly. The wreck is surprisingly

intact, although corals and sponges are slowly taking over and the

ocean is claiming the plane as her own. This plane had rested

undiscovered at the bottom of the bay for almost 60 years.