I would like to take this opportunity to respond to Mr. Malcolm Black's recent correspondence in which he makes a number of statements that are misleading and/or ill-informed. Mr. Black states that I entertained Papua New Guinea National Museum officials in Las Vegas, an act that allegedly "raised eyebrows". I have no doubt that it would have raised eyebrows if it had happened but there was no meeting in Las Vegas. My own "eyebrows are raised" in disbelief at Mr. Black's bizarre and totally nonsensical accusations. I can categorically deny that any "entertainment" took place in Las Vegas. Malcolm Black is casting spurious insults and slanders against good people that he does not know and he is making false accusations and slanders against well-intentioned PNG officials who are only trying to do their job. It is a requirement for any salvage proposal that members of the museum visit the proposed restoration facilities. I honored this requirement by bringing Senea and Simon to LA (not Las Vegas) and we visited the proposed restoration facilities in Riverside, CA. After flying thousands of miles, it would be ridiculous for anyone to expect these men to depart the next day to fly home. They spent about 5 days in the LA area. I did get them hotel rooms and I did take them to dinner and try to show them my sincere appreciation for their efforts in flying halfway around the world to attempt to finalize a worthwhile effort to preserve an important relic of aviation history for the benefit of future generations. There was absolutely nothing inappropriate about the visit and I would appreciate Mr. Black's recantation of his unwarranted slanders against the hard working and well-intentioned officials of the PNG Museum. If he continues to make bizarre and slanderous accusations against these innocent men, I will be forced to take legal action against him in order to dissuade him from making wild and unsubstantiated remarks in the future.
I also want to state that I have involved numerous professionals in the plans for salvage and we have generated an entire book that depicts diagrams of each phase of the salvage and lists the weights of all components of the aircraft. In fact, all the requisite equipment needed to perform the salvage is already in PNG. Of course it will be expensive and difficult but I have certainly planned well and involved some fine professionals in this effort. Mr. Black is obviously unaware of any provisions that I have made and continues to broadcast his ignorance across the worldwide web. If he wants to know the truth about my motives and plans, he should feel free to contact me directly and I will be more than happy to educate him about the realities of my efforts. His remarks are unceasingly negative and he has no concern other than to make sure than any other effort, no matter how well intentioned or well planned, be doomed to failure because he wants to create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion. Unfortunately for Mr. Black, his negativity will gain him nothing in the long run because no reasonable person would want to deal with someone who makes such reckless and negative assessments of matters of which he has little or no intimate knowledge. The members of the PNG Museum and the Ministers of the PNG government have shown me nothing but professionalism and respect and they will not fail to do what is "right" simply because this man has tried to insult the PNG officials and create an atmosphere of fear and distrust.
The concept of leaving wrecks in place in PNG is no longer viable. I am personally aware of at least a dozen sites that have been scrapped by natives in the last 5 years, most of them sites that I had visited and filmed. The remaining sites will soon be lost to either corrosion or vandalism. The romantic view of letting them stand sentinel in the jungle is not practical because vital pieces of aviation history are being destroyed by the ravages of time, neglect and careless vandalism.
I have labored in New Guinea for years. My efforts were self-funded and completely altruistic in nature. I was searching for missing American aircraft and I succeeded in locating five wreck-sites that held the remains of American Airmen. Many of these men have been returned to their families and buried in Arlington and other cemeteries around the country. Mr. Black has gone so far as to disparage my efforts to recover missing airmen in past correspondence. Any interested party who wants to know the truth about me and my motives need only to contact any one of the numerous families that I have helped achieve closure by assisting in the return of their long lost loved ones. These families have unfailingly expressed their appreciation for my efforts and have accepted me into their homes and look upon me as a member of their extended families.
I have strong family ties to the War in the Pacific. My Uncle Victor Hagen was on the USS Cassin in Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th, 1941 and was a Pearl Harbor survivor. He served out the rest of the war on a destroyer in the Pacific. My Maternal Grandmother's youngest brother, Fred Benn was a 19 year old Marine who was injured in the amphibious assault on Tarawa and later killed in the explosion of an LST during the build-up to attack Iwo Jima. No trace of Fred's remains were ever found. And you already know about my Great Uncle, Major Bill Benn, who was lost in the Owen Stanley's and about whom General Kenney wrote: "No one in the theatre made a greater contribution to victory than Bill Benn" and "the Bismarck Sea battle was Bill Benn's show. It was a shame that he wasn't alive to see it". I want to finish what I have begun as a tribute to my own family and to all the other brave Americans who risked all in the Second World War in an effort to achieve a just and lasting peace that would benefit all people, not just Americans. They succeeded in their endeavor and I will succeed in mine as well.
Alfred (Fred) Hagen