On the 23rd January 1942, only 6 weeks after Pearl Harbour, Japanese forces invaded and took control of Kavieng which became one of their primary bridgeheads into Papua New Guinea. It was an extremely important supply and staging base for Japanese operations along the northern coast of Papua New Guinea and
a major way station on the logistic route which terminated at Rabaul. From Kavieng, barges, ships and submarines moved southward across the Bismarck Sea to the Japanese Bases at Wewak, Hansa Bay and Alexishafen and along the coast of New Ireland to Rabaul.
Due to its strategic position the allies quickly realised the need to capture Kavieng, but the logistics of landing a ground force large enough proved impratical. It was decided instead to neutralise Kavieng from the air. At the same time the air campaign against Rabaul was brought to a climax. The massive allied air attack on Kavieng in February 1944 devastated Japanese air presence as well as shipping and warehouse facilities. Numerous Japanese seaplanes and ships were reported hit and sunk during this pearl harbour style raid. One of the B25's reported hitting eight float planes in one run.
Squadrons of the 345th group didn't come off lightly thought and suffered their worst combat loss on this mission, a total of 11 aircraft was lost. The Air Apaches came off worst losing 4 B25's. Three of these; "Gremlins Holiday", " Pissonit" and Captain Cavolis plane which all reported to have ditched close to Nusa Island have still not been found. One the "Stubborn Hellion" crashed off a mangrove 30 minutes by boat from Kavieng.
Scuba Ventures has an ongoing wreck location and exploration program. Which has resulted in the recent discovery of some interesting new plane and ship wrecks in the Kavieng harbour area. The most recent exciting discovery is that of a Mitsubishi "Pete" Biplane in 39m of water. The challenge of discovery still tantalises - local memories are encouraged to share locations and sightiings and records are still scoured for other diveable wrecks.
"Aircraft wrecks taken on certain unique spirit, the water giving the diver the freedom to pitch and yawl, to roll and dive as an enemy fighter would have. you can float above the plane in the silent formation of a wingman, only the deafening roar of the throttled piston engines is an imaginary one. Water and time soothing the fever of battle, instruments of war now home to colorful reef fish." Marc Montocchio
Japanese Aichi E13A “ Jake” Seaplane
This twin float, single engine, 3 seater Naval Reconnaissance. Seaplane, code name “Jake” performed its task almost anonymously, but effectively during the War. a total of 1418 were built from 1938.
Apart from the well known often dived "Jake" 5 minutes from Nusa Island which lies in 12-14m of water Scuba Ventures have located two more previously undived " Jakes" .
The First following a lead from a local informant was found in January 2001. When the wreck was spotted Robert was adamant it wasn't the one he knew. He said that plane was upright and this one was upside down. This wreck lies in 15m of water and though upside down is relatively intact offering an interesting comparison the other upright Jakes. The bomb compartment door is open, giving a clear view of a large armament with tail fins which wasn't used. The Engine and Propeller are in perfect condition.
Not long after finding this wreck a group of young boys brought news of another "Jake" close to a navigation Beacon. The first attempt to locate this on scuba was unsuccessful. Wasn't long after we met Stanley who agreed to show us the location of this plane. Lying upright this is the most intact of the three. Colourful pink soft corals adorn the propeller blades and port wing. A 30mm machine gun lies across the back seat of the rear cockpit.
"Dorian motioned me over to a wing tip where he gently waved off the thin layer of sand. Beneath it, perfectly preserved was the Hinomaru, the rising sun, as vivid as the day it was painted. As carfully as he revealed it Dorian covered the red sun up again"
Mitsubishi F1M Type-Zero “Pete” Biplane
Despite its Biplane configuration the F1M observation floatplane was a highly successful aircraft flown throughout the war. Given the allied code name the Pete”, the F1M was used in the fighter as well as observation, gunnery spotting, anti submarine and convoy escort roles. The prototype first flew in June 1936 when production terminated in March 1944 a total 1118 had been built. The "Pete" had a large central float and fixed wing floats. The had 2 small bomb racks under the the lower wing and for armament it mounted two 7.7mm fixed machine guns, which fired through the propellerand one 7.7mm. A flexible macine guns operated from the rear cockpit.
2 of these plane wrecks are found 5 min from Nusa in 18m of water on a silty bottom. The one is completely intact with one damaged wing albeit upside down. This wreck is home to many lionfish, Nudibranchs and various species of shrimps are also found here. The other is also upside down but has a broken back which is possibly due to anchor damage.
The Exciting discovery of the Deep "Pete" Mitsubishi F1M in April 2003
Lying upside down on a white sandy bottom at 40 metres, this exciting new plane wreck is a remarkable contrast to the other plane wrecks within the harbour. The visibility is seldom below 30m, schools of friendly batfish accompany divers, resident snappers, sweet lips and schooling barracuda and Trevally are often found here. The 2 cowl mounted 7mm guns which fire through the propeller arch are still in position. The mounted flexible gun which was operated from the rear cockpit lies in the sand with the drum magazine close by. An amazing dive for both wreck and fish enthusiasts.
" Wow that was like finding a dunnie in a desert " Kim Woodcock Western Australia
" My Camera says Thank you" Mr Sagaguchi Japan
This Plane wreck is a fantastic photo opportunity recently featured in Mirko Zanni's " Lost Squadron" DVD presentation at the recent 2004 Antibes underwater film festival which won him the silver medal.
The B25 American Mitchell Bomber the "Stubborn Hellion"
The B-25 with max speed of 438kph and 12 X 12.7mm MG bombs served in every corner of the Pacific during World War II.
On February the 15th 1944 , the fuselage of Capt. Hochella’s B-25 the “Stubborn Hellion” was ripped open by shrapnel. Huge blasts from raids by straffers on China Town, Kavieng, sent 55-gallon drums of fuel flying through the formation the Stubborn Hellion was leading. Badly damaged the plane crash landed in the water about ten miles from Kavieng alongside the mangroves of Manne Island , near Albatross Channel. The plane, broken up, lies in 12m of water on a silty bottom. The Turret guns and flexible mounted tail gun are still in Place.
Catalina Float Plane
This Float Plane Wreck lies in 18m of water just outside the Kavieng Harbour entrance.This plane crashed on take off in 1941. None of the crew survived. The two distinctive engines remain with sections of wing on which an anchor lies. Many Japanese armaments which where dumped in the area are strewn around this wreck site. At times the current can be quite strong in this passage entrance which often cleans the water but makes it hard to stay on the wreck site.
Japanese Ship Wrecks in Kavieng Harbour
Further exploration resulted in the discovery of two interesting unidentified Japanese vessels.
The First, 8 minutes boat ride from Nusa Island is about 70 –80m long, boiler driven and appears to be a War Time vessel rather than merchant.. Resting in 24m of water on a silty bottom this wreck slowly reveals its secrets each time its dived.
Even though heavily bombed and we assume salvaged there are still some fairly intact areas of interest and various artifacts can be found; Depth Charges, field artillery shells, winch drums, buckets, kettles, plates, boot soles, coal stores, fire hose fittings, light fittings, ammunition shells, stencil templates, morse code tapper, plates, drinking and eating canteens..
Also home to interesting marine life; shoals of Barracuda, Big eye Trevally, Lion fish, Bat Fish ,Twin spot Gobbies, Nudibranchs , Black coral trees and Big Gorgonian Fans makes this an interesting dive of possible discovery.
The second wreck, 10 minutes boat ride from Nusa Island , lies between Nago and Edmago Islands across the Nusa Channel Entrance, upright on a Sandy bottom in 18m of water.
This wreck is about 50m long and almost completely covered by coarse sand making it difficult to identify its class. A case of Ammunition shells found on the sand close to what appears to be a Gun turret and the amount of coral growth definitely places it as a World War II Wreck.
Parts of the superstructure that are above the sand are covered in Anenomes and 5 different species of Anenome Fish, Big Black Coral trees, whip corals and Gotgonian Fans. Cowrie shells and Nudibranchs are often found here as well. Turtles, Groupers and Nurse Sharks have also been seen here.