Discovery of World War II fighter plane paves way for first sister city between US and Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea


June 2, 2024

/PRNewswire/ — A team from Pacific Wrecks has discovered one of the most famous aircraft of World War II

Papua New Guinea

. Two weeks later,

Papua New Guinea

Officials signed a Letter of Intent with

Poplar, Wisconsin

become sister cities.

Pacific Wrecks team at the P-38 Marge crash site.  PHOTO: PACIFIC WRECKS/JUSTIN TAYLAN

The double announcements were made on

May 31, 2024

during a live event broadcast from

Papua New Guinea


The famous P-38 Lightning fighter plane was assigned to America’s best Ace,

Richard I. Bong

. Bong is credited with shooting down 40 Japanese aircraft. He named his plane “Marge” after his girlfriend.

The plane was found in the jungle of Madang province,

Papua New Guinea

. Pacific Wrecks confirmed the aircraft’s unique serial number.

The expedition was organized to mark the 80th anniversary of the crash. Pacific Wrecks spearheaded the effort in partnership with the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center

Superior, Wisconsin


Bong received the Medal of Honor from Gen

Douglas MacArthur

. Upon returning home he married Marjorie “Marge” Vattendahl. Shortly afterwards, Bong died while testing a new aircraft



The discovery of “Marge” led to the signing of

Papua New Guinea

first statement of intent under the Sister Cities program.

Poplar, Wisconsin

is the birthplace of Bong, and Madang,

Papua New Guinea

is the location of the crash site.

“Pacific Wrecks was honored to be entrusted with this important mission and is proud to announce the identification of ‘Marge’. We are pleased that our shared history of World War II bridged two cities on opposite sides of the world,” said

Justin Taylan

Director of Pacific Wrecks.

“I would like to congratulate you and your team on finding this great site and identifying it for the world, for aviation historians and enthusiasts and the public,” said

Russel Lee

Chairman of the Department of Aeronautics, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.

“Our countries have a deep legacy surrounding the Second World War, and for both our nations this remains a source of pride,” said the Governor of Madang.

Ramsey Pariwa


Sister Cities International was founded in 1956 under President Eisenhower to promote citizen diplomacy. Today there are more than 2,000 partnerships in 145 countries.

Damian Wampler

Head of Public Affairs at the US Embassy

Port Moresby

, thanked Taylan for bringing partners together and expressed gratitude to Governor Pariwa for being “the first to participate in this incredible act of citizen diplomacy.” “7 for 70” is an initiative of Sister Cities International, the Department of State and the White House National Security Council. Wampler added: “I am very happy to kick off ‘7 for 70’ with Madang en



“We are so proud of the Pacific Wrecks team for their efforts in finding and identifying P-38 Marge. That this aircraft survives in the jungle brings new awareness to the amazing life and legacy of

Richard Bong

”, said curator of Bong Center

Briana Fiandt


“I had the privilege of working with Sister Cities International as the lead for the Ohio-Ukraine Sister State effort,” said Pacific Wrecks Program Manager

Steve Kleiman

. “We knew it would be a win for all stakeholders to share these insights and relationships with PNG. Pacific Wrecks is excited to partner with


Madang, Sister Cities International, the State Department and the White House to make this a reality.”

The event can be viewed at




Wrecks in the Pacific Ocean (

) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to finding America’s missing persons and harnessing new technologies to study past conflicts. Founded in 1995 by

Justin Taylan

grandson of a World War II combat photographer who served

New Guinea

Pacific Wrecks operates throughout the Pacific region, including

Papua New Guinea


Solomon Islands


North Korea

. Taylan has personally documented more than a thousand plane wrecks.


The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center (


) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit museum located in

Superior, Wisconsin

. The museum opened in 2002 and is dedicated to sharing the legacy of



Richard Bong

. The Bong Center is planning an exhibition at the crash site.


Founded by President Eisenhower, Sister Cities International (

Sister Cities International – Landing

) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers through 2,000 partnerships across 145 countries. Last October, the U.S. Department of State and the White House National Security Council announced the “7 for 70” initiative to create seven new sister cities in the Pacific Islands in honor of SCI’s 70th anniversary in 2026.

Electronic press kit (EPK) with photos:

Available for job interviews:

Justin Taylan, director of Pacific Wrecks;

Briana Fiandt

Curator, Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center;

James Bong


by Richard Bong


Poplar/Madang Sister City Letter of Intent signed and sealed.  FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Francis Tavatuna, First Secretary to the Governor of Madang;  Madang Governor Ramsey Pariwa;  Justin Taylan, director of Pacific Wrecks;  Damian Wampler, Head of Public Affairs, US Embassy Port Moresby.  PHOTO: PACIFIC WRECKS / JOEL CARILLET

View original content to download multimedia: sister -stad-302161253.html


Back To Top