Doctor Seeks Funding To Recover B-24 Photo Queen

Artist impression of the Photo Queen

A doctor from New Jersey has been searching for a missing World War Two plane that crashed in New Guinea during the war, and it is now thought to have been discovered.

Dr James Bertel from Washington Township in New Jersey has been looking for the plane called the Photo Queen, since his uncle was one of the 11 crewmen aboard the aircraft when it crashed.

It crashed 71 years ago and last year James travelled to New Guinea to where the suspected crash site had been located.

James’s uncle, James Reynolds from Gibbstown, and the rest of the crew were flying reconnaissance missions for the US Army Air Force to take photographs over Leyte Island in the Pacific.

While on the mission, the Photo Queen became blown off course in strong winds and the aircraft disappeared.

All of the crew’s families were told that the plane had crashed in bad weather and that the entire crew had been lost at sea.

James has now spent years trying to discover the truth. He has used maps, researched army archives and scanned the internet in order to get to the bottom of the Photo Queen’s fate.

He managed to calculate where the Photo Queen must have crashed from its last known location over New Guinea.

Another relative of one of the crew was also interested to discover the truth about the Photo Queen, Paul Julian. The two joined their efforts to find the wreck and James left to search the jungles of New Guinea.

He was able to piece together information from local people and was taken to a small graveyard where their bodies may have been buried. However that was never confirmed, and he was unable to locate the remains of the aircraft.

The local people continued to search even after James left and five months later they are thought to have found the remains of the Photo Queen, as a tail wing was sticking out of a swamp. A fuselage was found later.

James plans to try to retrieve the aircraft’s remains and particularly the engines so that they can use serial numbers to identify the plane. He is hoping to get help from the US Defense Department for funding the recovery.

“I’m petitioning the government to hire me as a private contractor or to send a team over with me leading them through to the site,” Bertel said.

Bertel said the DPAA has a budget for recovery missions like this one, but the challenge will be getting them to accept the mission.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE