After a couple of days diving on the huge heart stopping wrecks in Truk Lagoon, it is nice to pause, get your blood pressure under control, and dive on something smaller and more manageable. This is probably why the wreck of the Betty Bomber is one of the most popular small dives in the Lagoon. ‘Betty’ was the code designation for the Mitsubishi G 4 M bomber, was used by the Japanese Navy mainly as a tactical strike plane, but it could also be used to drop torpedos against surface ships.
In the early days of the Second World War Japan had no independent Air Force, so the Navy pushed the whole project through and got mass production started in the early 1940’s. By all accounts she was a good aeroplane, with a long range which revolutionized air operations by the Japanese in the Pacific. At first she was well liked by her pilots, but soon she became known as the ‘flying cigar’ partly because of her shape, and partly because her fuel tanks were unprotected, and so when she was hit they would immediately burst into flames.
The Betty Bomber that we dived on had crashed just short of the island of Etan’s runway. Whether it was shot down or just made a error of judgment we do not know. However what ever happened, she must have come in very low and slow because she did not disintegrate as she hit the water, but sort off gently slid under. Her engines were probably still going as well, because they became detached and continued underwater for about another hundred yards. Today, the ‘Betty lies in about fifty feet of gin clear water on a sandy bottom surrounded by coral outcrops, and provides a magnificent sight. lt is not often that you get to see an almost intact aero plane, and what’s more one that you can easily get inside. The wings and tail section are intact, but it is the nose section that grabs your attention even though it is quite badly bent and twisted. You can sit in the pilot’s position, the actual seat is lying out near the coral, and then swim out of the nose and back to the gunners bay located just aft of the wing
Here you can easily swim into the main hold of the aircraft. There is a machine gun, parts of a radio, some small boxes and other bits and pieces to poke through. The inside and outside are remarkably clean and show that coral really cannot get a grip on the aluminium of the plane’s body. Outside on the sand are various bits of the plane that have broken off and more parts of a machine gun. Most peculiarly there was also a portable toilet. Further out from the nose, lying on the coral were the engine pods, but they were quite bashed up and really not very interesting. It is the ‘Betty’ that takes the eye. The visibility is so good that you can see her from all angles much as you could view a plane on the surface at an airport. The difference is, that underwater, it is you that can fly right over her. The ‘Betty’ is an excellent dive and provides a sight that will remain in my mind for a very long time.