The story continues
1990 interest and the search begins
In 1990, the ex-Corporal, who first saw the engine was watching television and he saw a programme concerning Amelia Earhart and that her Electra aircraft had been powered by Wasp engines and that she had taken off from Lae in New Guinea , never to be seen again. He wondered if the wreckage could be that of the Electra as he remembered that the USAAC had said that the engine found had been a Wasp engine. He posed the question to the Royal Australian Air Force at their base at Pearce in Western Australia . The base put him in contact with a historian at Point Cook in Victoria . The historian investigated the possibility and replied that “Yes, it could possibly be Earhart's”.
The ex-Corporal managed to get the story published in the “West Australian” newspaper and he wrote to the Smithsonian in Washington and enclosed the article, the Smithsonian replied in the negative. He also wrote to Richard Gillespie of the TIGHAR group, who replied that it was not possible that the wreckage could be that of the Electra. Richard Gillespie has said (in 2001) that the ex-Corporal did contact him but that there was no mention of a map then and that since this contact the story has seemed to “have developed” and that the ex-Corporal only got the information about the airframe serial number and the engine serial numbers from Gillespie himself. It is correct, there was no map in 1992 but it is not correct about the serial numbers. The ex-Corporal got those from the historian at Point Cook in Victoria , Australia .
In mid-1993 an Expedition was formed comprising of some ex-R.A.A.F. servicemen who went into the jungle to a site which we now know was the wrong area.
In late 1993, a chance meeting between the ex-Corporal and the former Company Clerk from the same army unit, resulted in a wartime map being sent, by the Company Clerk to the Corporal. The Company Clerk had rescued the map from a map case which was on a pile of discarded equipment which was intended to be burnt as the unit was to leave New Britain and return to Australia . Both men were to go into the veteran's hospital for operations. The former Company Clerk did not survive his operation. The former Corporal did and when he returned home the map was waiting for him in the mail. The edges of the map were folded over and stuck down with old tape. The former Corporal looked at the map, saw that it was of the area where they had carried out the reconnaissance patrol, re-folded the map and put it away with his papers.
The story then appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail newspaper at Christmas 1993. I saw the story and it mentioned that it was a “possibility” that the wreckage was that of Earhart's Electra. I was then working in the Quality Assurance Department of the Engineering Division of Air Niugini. I have been an Aircraft Engineer nearly all my working life. I was immediately interested in the story as I had previously been involved in searching for wartime wrecks up in Papua New Guinea . There are still hundreds of aircraft which are missing in New Guinea .
I contacted the Curator of the Modern History Museum in Port Moresby on my return to Papua New Guinea and joined the project.
In 1994, there were four Australian veterans from this patrol who were still living, now, there are only two men left from the original 20-man patrol. These two men live in Perth , in Western Australia . I have interviewed all of the four veterans and have documented their evidence of the patrol and the wreckage. Their story has also been captured on videotape.
The ex-Corporal is Donald Angwin who unfortunately passed away in 2001. Don was an extremely likeable fellow and I took to him immediately when I contacted him. I had received the patrol story and Don's account was in an “Unofficial” Journal that he had written concerning the unit he had served with in the Second World War. I telephoned Don but he could not tell me much more than had been in the journal and he suggested that I contact the ex-Warrant Officer who lived at Yamba on the New South Wales coast. This I did when I went down to the Gold Coast on leave. In the meantime I had read Mary S. Lovell's book, “The Sound of Wings” which is a comprehensive book and contains pictures of the Electra.
I spoke with the ex-Warrant Officer, Keith Nurse, in April 1994. Keith comes over as the typical straight talking Warrant Officer type, no messing, no rubbish, just straight up and down. What Keith told me sent the hair up on the back of my neck, he was describing what could be an Electra nacelle. This sent me straight back to the Library at Runaway Bay for another look at the Lovell Book. It was not there but I did find an illustrated book on “Transport” and this book had a two page colour photograph in it of an Electra 10A with all the panels removed. There were the three piece cowlings stood at the front of the Electra in the photograph. When I did get the Lovell book there were the ugly looking rivets I had remembered and of which Keith had spoken. I was convinced right there and then that the project had value. There was one problem, how could the Electra fly so far ? How could it go out into the Pacific close to Howland Island and return to New Britain . That answer came some months later.
It was now August and I was due to visit Perth in Western Australia on Company business, Air Niugini had an aircraft on maintenance in Perth . I informed Don Angwin I would be coming down and that at last we could meet. A week or so before I set off Don had said to his wife that he had nothing to show me in the way of evidence. His wife Norma said that he should give me a copy of the map that the Company Clerk, Len Willoughby, had given him. Don took out the map and went to a photocopying shop in Perth . Because of the tape around the edges of the map, the machine started to tear the map. The assistant stopped the machine and said to Don, “If you remove the tape it will go through”. Don took the map home and gently removed the tape, some came away easily but some was stuck down firm. Some writing started to appear as Don removed the tape. This writing says:
GI/1009 SERET REF: 600H/P S3HI C/N1055 [24/5/45]
SITREP D COY PATROL Al
SEE SPECIL SITREPS 58, 59, 61, 63, [63A] ATT: CAPT. MOTT.
Don rang me in New Guinea while I was at work and asked me to stand-by the fax machine. A reduced copy of the map came through and again my hair stood on end. There was the Electra right in front of me together with the designation of the engines: C/N 1055 and S3H1, but why did it say 600 H/P when the engines were rated at 550 H.P. ? That answer was to come later.
In Perth I met with Don Angwin, Ken Backhouse and Roy Walsh. Ken had been the Lieutenant and in 1994 was a sick man having just been through a by-pass operation. Roy had been the Sergeant in charge of the rearguard on the patrol. We went through the story and it transpired that Roy had not seen any sign of the wreckage, he had been too busy with the rearguard and had passed through the site without seeing anything. Roy was to provide significant clues later on. Ken backhouse did not say much then, content to let Don run the show but he did mention what he had seen in regard to the actual airframe wreckage and it too matched with an Electra. I also met with Greg Dawson, Don's nephew who had a Documentary Film Company.
It was decided that it was time to organise an Expedition and go in there and have a look. This was done in September, with the team comprising MacLaren Hiari from the National Museum , Greg and his cameraman and runner and myself. We went into the nearest airstrip by light-plane and then to the search area by boat. We found nothing.
I finally visited the fourth Veteran, the ex-Warrant Officer Keith Nurse at his home in Yamba in May 1995.
Things lapsed a little then until later in 1995. I formed a small group from friends I had had for years. We went into the area in 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002 and lately 2004. Altogether I have made nine trips into the area, mostly for two weeks at a time. It is very expensive to get in there now as the airstrip has closed and access is by helicopter, this cuts down the transit time but at the expense of, the pocket !
All through this, the Earhart saga has occupied my time now for ten years. I will now go over an expanded view of the evidence from the veterans of what they saw and what the writing on the edge of the wartime map means.
Visual evidence from the Veterans
From the Warrant Officer, Keith Nurse, who examined the engine ( his description in Italics )
The W.O. said that the cowl ring had been burst open but: “...strangely, the split edges at the opening were straight and had a row of rivets on each side...”.
The Electra front cowl rings were made in three pieces, each covering a 120 degree segment, the whole cowl being round and just under five feet in diameter. This “split” would be where the matching pieces of the segments joined at the sides of the nacelle by latches, as the top join, was held together by screws. The cowling had burst open at one of the side latching points, not at the screwed join at the top. Each segment has a row of rivets along the horizontal edge.
At the front of the cowl ring there were “ugly-looking rivets”, which protruded from the skin surface.
This is correct as the corners of the joint areas of the cowling had dome-headed rivets in clusters which had an ugly appearance. By WWII, the countersunk rivet had been invented and this presents a “flush” appearance on the skin and does not cause what is called “Drag” in an aerodynamic sense. Dome head rivets do cause drag.
NOTE: Do not look to Linda Finch's old Electra for evidence of “dome-headed” rivets. The cowlings on that machine are from North American Texan AT-6's and were made with flush rivets.
The frontal area of the cowl was heavily corroded with finger sized holes and was so corroded it looked like lacework. “Holed and filigreed” was how the W.O. described it.
The front cowling on the Electra was not what we now call a “NACA” cowling, which is designed for its aerodynamic properties. The Electra cowl was quite flat at the front, which would cause aerodynamic drag. This flat area must have had impinged salt on it to have corroded so badly, as the sides of the nacelle were said to not have corrosion on them. This then indicated to me that the cowling was not of a WWII aircraft as the time from January 1942 (the Japanese Invasion of Rabaul) to April 1945 is not sufficient to cause that kind of corrosion if the aircraft had been a wartime aircraft. Also, wartime aircraft were painted and this was a bare metal aircraft. The cowling must have picked up salt and the Electra was low over the sea until out of sight after taking off from Lae. It was also at low level when Earhart was looking for Howland Island . It would have picked up salt.
At the back face of the nacelle, which the W.O. described as “a large round metal disc”, were some metal tubes which were twisted and torn. The W.O. said that these tubes were painted glossy black.
The round metal disc would be the rear face of the firewall and the torn tubing would be part of the “airframe” metal tube truss which, mounted on the front spar of the Electra carried the firewall, the engine mount truss and the engine and propeller. When the engine was ripped out in the impact it obviously broke off at the airframe truss. The former President of the Amelia Earhart Society has told me that Art Kennedy, an engineer who worked on the Electra, painted the tubing on the aircraft with black paint.
The W.O. said that there was yellow paint inside the nacelle on the interior surfaces of the sheetmetal.
This would be Yellow Chromate anti-corrosion finish. It is said that both yellow and green chromate finishes were applied to certain places on Electras. Art Kennedy, the engineer, could not recall which colour was used on C/N1055.
The propeller blade seen was of a narrow chord (width) and was bare aluminium. It was bent backwards over the top of the cowling as viewed.
This type of propeller was usually referred to as a “toothpick” type of propeller and on the Electra the total diameter of the propeller circle was nine feet. The Electra used narrow chord propellers of the “toothpick” type. Wartime aircraft with more powerful engines in the 1200 H.P. power group used what are known as “paddle-blade” propellers and they were usually painted black with yellow tips. The fact that the propeller was bent backwards shows that there was no power on the engine when the aircraft went into the trees. Under power propeller blades bend forwards as they cleave the trees on impact.
The Warrant Officer looked inside the cowling for any identification but could not see a data plate on the front of the engine or on the rear. He did find a small metal tag wired to the engine mount tubing at the rear of the engine. He removed this metal tag and he said, “It had letters and numbers on it but they did not mean anything to me, I took the tag with me, to hand in with the patrol report”.
The “normal” place for a data plate on later Pratt & Whitney engines is on the front crankcase cover in the 4 o/clock position. Earhart's Electra did not have the plates in this position and it is more likely that they were on the back of the engine on the blower casing. I have seen a 1928 Wasp, a variant designated “S1D1” in a museum and it has the data plate on the blower housing. It is not surprising that a data plate could not be seen in the jungle darkness and inside the cowling.
The words “Pratt & Whitney” were seen, somewhere, by the Warrant Officer, although he could not remember where.
This could have been on the P&W badge, which was attached to the oil scavenge housing on the front of the engine or from a decal or from embossed writing on the crankcase. It may have been on the small metal tag he removed also. The Warrant Officer said that at the time he said to himself, “This thing is bloody old”. He was 27 years of age at the time.
From the Corporal, Donald Angwin, who first saw the engine ( his description in Italics )
The Corporal, who first saw the engine, thought at first that it was a Japanese gun emplacement and he threw himself to the ground with rifle at the ready. As he focused on the mound in front of him he saw what looked to him like a three or four inch gun pointed at him. He described it as “a hollow tube pointing at me”. When nothing happened and his mind cleared he could see metal ahead and what looked like an engine. He signaled for the patrol leader to come forward.
What he would have seen would have been the propeller pitch change tube without the front aluminium cover. This also points to corrosion in that the cover disc had dropped out as the engine was tilted down at the front. The pitch change tube was a round cylindrical tube, flat at the front with an aluminium cover plate. Wartime engines mostly had cigar tube shaped ends, rounded and sealed at the base flange.
From the Lieutenant, Ken Backhouse, who examined the aircraft ( his description in Italics )
The Lieutenant left the Warrant Officer to examine the engine and walked forwards about thirty yards to another large vine and tree debris covered mound.
Under the vines and tree debris he could see a metal structure and he climbed onto the Port (LH) wing close to the fuselage. He peered down into what would have been the cockpit area but saw nothing except jungle growth coming through from the bottom. He said to himself, “I hope there are no poor devils in there”. He described the cockpit area as being all smashed back to where he stood at the front of the wing. The left hand engine was gone but he could see the right hand engine. The right hand wingtip was bent upwards about ten feet from the tip. The fuselage height where he stood was at belt height. He cannot recall seeing the tail section or whether there were windows down the side of the fuselage. He did see a “round black and shiny” object lying on the wreckage. He also saw some glass. The aircraft had no exterior paint and he did not see any letters or military markings on the wreckage.
The fuselage height at where he stood is correct. The LH engine would be the one being examined by the Warrant Officer. The round black and shiny object would have been one of the smooth tread balloon type low pressure tyres, wet with rain. The cockpit area being smashed back would be typical of an Electra going into trees as the frontal area of the Electra was very lightly built and the damage would be stopped at the very large and substantial main spar where he stood. Being covered in leaf debris and vines he would not see “NR16020” on the right hand upper wing surface. The only other chance for a number or letters would have been the tail section but this was probably ripped off by the trees and lay off to the edge of the site.
The hole in the jungle canopy was described as round and 30 to 40 feet across. Normally when an aircraft goes into trees it leaves an elliptical or teardrop hole. This aircraft that they saw went into the trees at a steep angle. An Electra running out of gasoline would be a handful to keep in the air. Nowadays, the surviving Electras are fitted with fully feathering propellers. Earhart's Electra did not have fully feathering propellers and out of gas, the propellers would windmill and cause very high drag. If the pitch levers were left in the coarse position (fully back) the propellers would also “hunt” from coarse pitch to fine pitch and back again as the windmilling propellers caused the engine to build up oil pressure which will send the propellers into coarse pitch, they slow down, oil pressure drops off and they go to fine again. This hunting would also cause the propellers to go out of synchronization and the aircraft would yaw violently. The pitch levers would best be put into fine pitch and the propellers would remain in fine pitch and the drag on the aircraft would be enormous but even on both sides. In order to prevent the stall, the aircraft would have to be pitched down, to maintain airspeed. All that can be hoped for when this happens is a severe pull out of the dive to crash-land the aircraft on cleared ground. Over jungle this is not possible and a catastrophic entry into the trees is inevitable. The Electra would have had a steep glide angle to start with, under minimum power. Losing all power as described above would cause the Electra, if kept in the air, to have the capability of flying almost like a brick. Such a crash would not be survivable.
Documentary evidence written on the Wartime Map
As stated the map has always been in the possession of “D” Company personnel, during WWII and after WWII. Retrieved by the Company Clerk in 1945, it rested with him until he posted it to Donald Angwin in late 1993.
The project is in possession of the original map, which is held in Perth , Western Australia .
To repeat the details on the map:
GI/1009 SERET REF: 600H/P S3HI C/N1055 [24/5/45]
SITREP D COY PATROL Al
SEE SPECIL SITREPS 58, 59, 61, 63, [63A] ATT: CAPT. MOTT.
Breaking down the writing on the map, we see two spelling mistakes: “SERET” and “SPECIL”, these are obviously Secret and Special.
All wartime signals are Secret. I see no significance to “Special” except that they mention Patrol A1.
GI stands for General Staff Intelligence Section.
1009 was the Operational Order from the command HQ for the Patrol to be carried out.
SITREP stands for Situation Report
D COY stands for D Company, the Unit to which our Veterans belonged.
Patrol A1 was the Code Number of the patrol.
Sitrep 58 was the patrol departure signal.
Sitrep 59 was the contacting patrol report after they handed over the radio.
Sitrep 61 and Sitrep 63 were probably the two reports handed in by the Warrant Officer.
Sitrep 63A is an Annex report and probably described the find. We do not have this one (yet).
Att: Capt. Mott. Captain Mott was a Divisional HQ Staff Officer, a Topographer. Captain Mott had a lot of interest as to where the Patrol A1 had been to.
We believe that this writing is part of the reply that came back from the U.S. Army but we do not know who jotted down this writing on the map. The date is five weeks after the Patrol A1 was completed. The writer would have been someone from “D” Company as the map was always in the possession of “D” Company personnel during the war and after the war.
This writing refers to “PATROL A1” by “D COY” (COY = Company) and is the patrol, which our veterans carried out. We have seen the situation reports (SITREPS), all except 63A, which was an Annex report and most probably referred to the engine. Sitrep 58 is the Patrol A1 departure signal, Sitrep 59 details the handing over of a radio on the second day of the patrol and the fact that the patrol was being followed by a Japanese patrol. Sitreps 61 and 63 are the patrol reports and as said 63A which has not been found yet, probably carried the detail of the find. Captain Mott was a Divisional Headquarters Staff Officer, a Topographer. We have only recently been able to contact the family of Captain Mott. His papers do not reveal any more detail. In 1945, Captain Mott demanded that all future reports from the area be directed to him.
We consider that the metal tag that the Warrant Officer removed from the engine mount immediately behind the engine was sent to the USAAC in April 1945.
I have been researching this Project for ten years. The significant content of the writing on the map is of course the “600H.P. S3HI C/N1055". We believe that two parts of this three-group sequence are the details from the metal tag removed from the engine mount by the Warrant Officer. This three group sequence translates as “600 Horsepower, Pratt & Whitney R-1340-S3H1, Constructor's Number 1055". Of this group of three parameters, two are Engine parameters and one is an Airframe parameter. “Constructor's No.1055” is the Airframe parameter and relates to “Model 10, 55th Built”. This Airframe constructor's number does belong to Amelia Earhart's Lockheed 10E Electra aircraft. The project had the verbal evidence from the veterans and now had documentary evidence from the map as to the identity of the aircraft wreckage.
The significance of the Documentary Evidence.
The question of how an “Airframe” construction number came to be on a metal tag removed from an “Engine” mount was a mystery to me at first until I realised that the aircraft in question, Amelia Earhart's Lockheed 10E, was ground-looped at Luke Field, Ford Island, Honolulu, in March 1937. Then, Amelia was on her first attempt at flying around the world, West-about. She ground-looped the aircraft on take-off for Howland Island and it was severely damaged.
This is where the big clues came in, as the Ground loop has significance to the Project.
After the ground-loop in March 1937, the aircraft, in photographs, is shown resting on the ground on its' belly with the No.2 Engine pointing skywards. There is a large pool of oil under the No.2 engine, showing that the RHS engine mount must have collapsed completely, piercing or crushing the oil tank, which nestled within the mount, forward of the firewall. The No. 1 Engine is shown to be only slightly “out-of-line” and the engine mount on the No.1 has been pushed backwards buckling the firewall. Also, the LH Main wheel has buckled the outboard side of the nacelle in the area of where the engine mount tubing lower truss beam would be.
It is my contention that the No.2 Engine mount was destroyed but the No.1 Mount was recoverable if jigged and re-welded in a repair. It is typical of ground-loops, when the landing gear collapses and the propellers strike the ground at power, that engine mount trusses are bowed, bent or broken. We do know that during the repair, that the Electra was given a new mount for the No.2 Engine. That information is in records held by the former President of the AE Society, Mr. Bill Prymak, in Broomfield , Colorado . The former President of the AE Society also confirms that in Lockheed documentation “C/N” does stand for “Construction Number”.
I have been in aircraft engineering for 48 years. I believe the Metal Tag, wired to the tubing on the detached engine and removed by the patrol Warrant Officer was a metal “Repair Tag”, which had been left on the engine mount truss after repair and re-installation. The leaving of repair tags on components does happen, even today. In 1937, the aircraft was repaired where it had been made and workers at the Lockheed factory at Burbank would identify all components removed during the repair as from the build number , “C/N1055", not as from “NRl6020", the civil registration of the aircraft. Items sent for a gas flame welding shop repair would get fireproof metal tags not card tags, just as they would do today.
Of the writing on the border of the map, the Pratt & Whitney Wasp S3H1 variant is correct and the Construction Number 1055 is correct for Earhart's Electra. 600 Horsepower is not correct for AE's aircraft in 1937 as all books put the power at two 550 H.P. Pratt & Whitney R-1340 S3H1 Wasps.
The explanation as to why "600 H.P" is shown on the Documentary Evidence is as follows:
The 1937 and 1941 Horsepower Ratings
In 1937, using 80 and 87 Octane number fuels, the S3H1 Wasp engine was rated at 550 Horsepower with 600 H.P. being available for take-off if 100 Octane was used. When WWII came along, with it came the higher Octane number gasoline fuels. Available now in quantity, was 90, 97, 100, 115 and later 100/130 Octane aviation gasoline. In April 1941, Pratt & Whitney raised the general horsepower rating of the S3H1 from 550 H.P. to 600 H.P. A higher Octane rating fuel will increase what is known as the Brake Mean Effective Pressure (BMEP) in the cylinders and will increase the power of an engine. P & W did not modify the engine; the higher octane fuel gave the extra power. A quick analogy of this is that a normally quiet “street car” engine can be made to give extra power by adding chemicals to fuel to give a higher Octane number as is done in drag racing.
The writing on the map is dated 1945, so the rating of 600 H.P. for the S3H1 was correct for 1945 when the advice from the USAAC came back that the engine was “not one of theirs”. The US Army would ask themselves, what the “current” rating for the engine was in 1945 and reply back with that information, as in:
“Reference your 600 Horsepower P & W S3H1 Wasp C/N 1055 that you found in the
jungle the other week…..”
Abbreviated to the cryptic “Ref: 600H/P S3H1 C/N 1055”.
This explanation for the seemingly “incorrect” 600 H.P. is an acceptable explanation as although the 1937 S3H1 was rated at 600 H.P. for Take-off, the general “well known” rating was 550 H.P. It is possible that 600 H.P. was written on the metal tag due to the Take-off rating but more likely that it was not. All that the Burbank employees would want to know was, “What engine does that mount fit ?” An S3H1 engine. “ Which aircraft does the S3H1 engine mount belong to ?” C/N 1055.
The date on the Map edge
At about the time of the date on the map edge [24/5/45] i.e.; 24 th May 1945, the United States Army Air Corps had been informed of the “engine” wreckage as the engine looked to be American and the words Pratt & Whitney had been seen by the Warrant Officer. Some five weeks after the Patrol A1 was completed, the Company was at another location close to their Headquarters, waiting for a barge to transport them further up the coast, where a large party of Japanese had been reported. They were approached, by an officer from Headquarters, who informed them that the U.S. Army had replied to the report of the find of the engine. The Officer was reading from a signal and he told the assembled men that the USAAC had said that the engine was not one of their engines. The U.S. Army had said that the engine was a Wasp engine and was most probably from a civilian aircraft. They were told, “Don't worry about it, we have other things to do”.
It would take five weeks for the reply to get back to the Australian Unit.
In the meantime, there had been some interest from the USAAC as two Officers from that force visited the area requesting to speak to Lieutenant Backhouse. He was out on another patrol. These two US Officers could not wait and left. As seat availability and transport by flying boat to the area would be at a premium, someone in USAAC HQ had the pull to get two Officers up there to question Lt. Backhouse. This does show some interest. It would be interesting to find out who that senior officer could have been.
Our Project Group do not have an engine number as a data plate was not seen by the patrol Warrant Officer, we just have an Airframe Construction Number written on a map owned by “D” Company who carried out the patrol in April 1945. There is no possible way that an Australian infantryman would have known Earhart's Electra 10E Airframe Construction Number.
The numbers on the map have to be what the numbers were on the metal tag .
The U.S.A.A.C does not recognize the evidence.
When the U.S. Army were informed of the find and the information from the metal tag was sent to them, how is it possible that they missed that it could be one of Amelia Earhart's Wasp engines ? In April 1945, General Douglas MacArthur was already out of New Guinea , it was a backwater. The mopping up of Japanese forces was being left to the Australians while MacArthur went on to the Philippines . Major units of the U.S. 5th Air Force had already left. At that time there would have been many reports of wreckage found as Army units advanced over former Japanese held territory. Somewhere in all of this is a report of an engine found on New Britain Island by Australians but as previously said the U.S.A.A.C. did not believe it was “one of theirs”.
Firstly, the “S3H1” was a Civil designation. In USAAC use the engine was known as an AN-1 engine.
Secondly, I believe that “C/Nl055" was misread as an engine Serial Number, “S/N1055", and this Serial Number would not appear in the Army G2 Intelligence Section Inventory Files as a military engine.
Thirdly, my research at the USAF Museum through a curator, reveals that no AN-1 powered aircraft, served in the South-West Pacific Area of Operations (SWPA).
Hence: The USAAC would say, “...not one of ours...”, “...most probably from a civilian aircraft...” and that they accepted "C/N 1055” as the engine serial number "S/N 1055".
In the 1930's, Pratt & Whitney serialised their engines with the "Year" first, i.e; Earhart's engines were S/N's 6149 and 6150, made in 1936. An engine bearing a serial number (S/N) with a number "1" first, as in 1055, would have been made in 1931. Therefore the USAAC would say, "Not one of ours". There are no long enduring tales of losses of pre-World War Two civilian aircraft on New Britain in Papua New Guinea as it is today. Pre-war, most of the flying took place on the main part of Papua New Guinea , not out on the islands. As the Electra was a civilian aircraft the 1055 would not appear in Army inventory. If the tag had the Electra registration, “NR16020” written on it, they might have realized whose aircraft it was.
Other aircraft and engines.
There were two Lockheed Model 10A aircraft in New Guinea operated by Guinea Airways and based at Lae. These aircraft had Pratt & Whitney R-985 engines of 450 H.P. and both these aircraft were evacuated to Australia at the outbreak of war in 1942 and did not return to New Guinea during the war. I have been unable to find any evidence that any other R-1340 S3H1 direct drive powered aircraft flew in New Guinea prior to WWII or during WWII. There were some Australian Wirraway aircraft powered by licence-built P & W R-1340 S3H1- G engines. There were seven of these at Rabaul when the Japanese invaded on 23 January 1942. Of these, five were shot down over Rabaul, two escaped to Port Moresby . One flew on to Australia and one remained in Moresby. These “G” engines, were a geared engine (they had a reduction gear at the front of the engine) and drove a three bladed propeller and developed 650 H.P. What we have is a twin-engined aircraft, the Wirraway was a single-engined aircraft. Other Wirraways operated in New Guinea but were not sent against Rabaul.
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