Diving the Showa L2D ‘Tabby’ Wreck

– Subic Bay, Philippines

 This week I took several newly graduated technical divers onto an unidentified aircraft wreck in Subic Bay.  Within a short time of descending on the first dive, it seemed very likely that the wreck was some variant of a C-47 Skytrain (DC-3 Dakota).

The wreck lies inverted on a sandy bottom at 45m/150ft, with the engines torn off (one is lying on the seabed close nearby), the wheels raised to flying position and the cockpit seems torn-apart and tangled on the port side.

Having spent 2 days pouring over internet databases and wartime records, I can find no mention of a C-47, or variant, crashing in Subic Bay… we have a mystery to solve…and more dives to complete!

The latest update, based on further research and advice, is that the wreck is most likely a Showa/Nakajima L2D “Tabby” – the Japanese military version of the DC-3 / C-47. This is consistent with the Japanese occupation of Subic during the war, along with several reports of downed aircraft in the Bay.

C-47 skytrain DC-3 Dakota Subic Bay Philippines

First view of the wreck – with a distinctive tail

This tail was somewhat unusual for the regular C-47 design.  Compared with the Showa L2D, it seems a much closer match. Note the “Revised Tail Cone” in the diagram below…

Showa L2D Tabby Subic Bay Philippines

I was joined on the dive by Brian Ferguson and Tim Mathieson – who had both previously completed  Tec Sidemount and Tec45 training with me. The dives were planned for 20 minutes with a maximum depth of 45m.  We used double AL80 cylinders with an AL40 deco tank (100%O2).

Many thanks to Boardwalk Dive Center for the supporting the dives….especially Dante, who can claim rights to first discovering the wreckage..

C-47 skytrain DC-3 Dakota Subic Bay Philippines

Front landing gear on the port side – partially recessed under twin wing-mounted engines. The starboard wheel is significantly more damaged – hanging at 90 degrees off the wreck. Both engines, fore of the wheels are torn free. The wheel hub is not standard C-47 issue – another clue as to possible Japanese heritage..

Japanese Showa / Nakajima L2D "Tabby"

Japanese Showa/Nakajima L2D “Tabby”, Clark Airfield, Angeles City, Luzon, Philippines, 1945 (photo from John Tewell)

C-47 skytrain DC-3 Dakota Subic Bay Philippines

Twin ‘tubes’ towards the rear of the cabin area – leading below the lower fuselage. Toilets or Flare Chutes? Further research on these may differentiate the aircraft variant and role..  The cabin seemed to be divided into (at least) three compartment, divided by a small doorway on the starboard side of the cabin..

The use of multiple bulkheads in the primary cabin is another indicator that the wreck is a Japanese L2D Showa.  Very few C-47 or DC-3 sub-divided the cabins.

C-47 skytrain DC-3 Dakota Subic Bay Philippines

Detail of the propeller hub – it’s a three bladed prop. One prop standing proud of the sea floor, the other two buried. It lies about 8 meters behind the main wreck, near to a chunk of engine.  Evidence that water impact tore the engines free, which then sank quicker?

C-47 skytrain DC-3 Dakota Subic Bay Philippines

Forward part of the engine block, located near the wreck and propeller. The big question: are they  Pratt & Whitney R-1830 (American) or  Kinsei 51/53 (Japanese) engines –  further research and confirmation is needed.

Showa L2D Tabby Subic Bay Philippines

Picture of the Showa L2D ‘Tabby’, with detail of the Kinsei 51/53 engines

Pratt & Whitney R1830 for comparison..

 C-47 skytrain dc-3 dakota subic bay philippines wreck

Photo shows the main passenger door on the port side, partially dislodged from the wreckage. Most C-47 had a large cargo door, in contrast many L2D ‘Tabby’ had a smaller passenger door.  The door has a small window/port in it (very bottom).  This is also consistent with the Japanese variants – some of the ports were used for mounting a self-defense machine gun.  I removed this door to gain access into the fuselage for inspection.

 C-47 skytrain dc-3 dakota subic bay philippines wreck

Underside of the starboard engine and landing gear (looking rear to front). This section of the aircraft was very tangled – indicating significant trauma.

C-47 DC-3 Skytrain Dakota wreck subic bay philippines

Pilot’s control stick (top-middle) with rudder pedals underneath.  You can see the ‘cabriolet’ result of damage to the cockpit..

C-47 DC-3 Skytrain Dakota wreck subic bay philippines

The co-pilots control stick (bottom-left).  You can appreciate the damage to the cockpit… ripped open and twisted through 90 degrees.

C-47 DC-3 Skytrain Dakota wreck subic bay philippines

Co-pilot’s seat.  Torn from the aircraft and laying on the sand to the right of the twisted cockpit area.

C-47 DC-3 Skytrain Dakota wreck subic bay philippines

How the C-47 Skytrain cockpit should look…

C-47 DC-3 Skytrain Dakota wreck subic bay philippines

I have control!

For more details about the PADI Tec Sidemount or Tec40/45/50 Courses, please contact me, or view the pages on my site…