A group from the US and Japan is trekking to a remote Pacific island jungle to document what is considered one of the most important wreck sites of World War II: where American fighters shot down a Japanese bomber carrying the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack. Three members of a New York-based WWII research organization and a Japanese aviation expert plan to visit the crash site on Bougainville, part of Papua New Guinea, on Wednesday, the 75th anniversary of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's death, the AP reports. Yamamoto had spent several years in the US earlier in his military career, studying at Harvard University and admiring America's industrial might. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, he was quite possibly the most hated man in America.
"As long as he lived, the Japanese navy was a threat," says author Donald A. Davis, who told the story of "Operation Vengeance" in a 2005 book. "He was feared in the Pacific." After Navy code breakers discovered in April 1943 that Yamamoto planned to tour bases in areas of the Solomon Islands still held by Japanese forces, a squadron of Army P-38 Lightnings shot down the bomber carrying him. Japanese troops recovered his body, but the wreckage of the Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bomber remains in the jungle. Justin Taylan, founder of New York-based Pacific Wrecks, says the purpose of visiting the Yamamoto site is to "document the wreckage and perform digital preservation of what remains for posterity." (This history buff believes he may have found Yamamoto's gold tooth.)