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Vale Stan Gajda - Aviation Archeologist

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Vale Stan Gajda - Aviation Archeologist

Old 5th Apr 2022, 03:46
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Vale Stan Gajda - Aviation Archeologist

Few on Pprune would have heard of Stan Gajda who died in a Perth hospital today. I met Stan circa 1982 when he lived on Nauru and I was flying for Air Nauru. We remained in regular contact for years. His main interest was aviation archeology. His knowledge of wartime aircraft wrecks in the Pacific region was phenominal.

See link: https://pacificwrecks.com/people/vis...jda/index.html

We corresponded often. Stan was an expert on what was known as the Battle for Tarawa or perhaps more specifically Betio Atoll which was the scene of a bitter three day battle in 1943 between US marines and the Japanese defenders of Betio atoll on which was a runway. Stan worked for the Kiribati Department of Works on Betio in the 1980's and was later instrumental in guiding searchers from the American War Graves Commission (Pacific Region) locate the remains of the war dead on Betio.

One of his stories was about the time the Australian War Museum contacted him on Nauru and asked him if he could find undercarriage legs for a couple of crashed Japanese Zero fighters that were on Nauru since 1941. These were needed for a re-built Zero fighter held by the AWM. Stan was able to locate these parts for which the AWM were most grateful. In return, during a visit to the AWM some time later, Stan was given several 20mm ex Gloster Meteor cannons as thanks for the Zero parts he had rescued from Nauru. Stan loaded the cannons on his vehicle and drove to Yulara NT where he was working at the time. At no time did any police stop him to ask about these guns.

Another of his explorations took place when he worked on Ponpei atoll in the SW Pacific area. There were several wartime Japanese two-man tanks in the jungle and Stan restored them to working condition. One day a visiting US Admiral landed at Pohnpei and asked to see these small tanks. Stan gave him some dual instruction on tank driving and the Admiral drove his tank down the dusty main street of Pohnpei. The Admiral then presented Stan with a medallion thanking Stan for all the work Stan had done in saving Pacific wrecks.
One of the last jobs Stan undertook before he retired due ill health, was back on Nauru at the invitation of the Government of Nauru to set up the Nauru Cultural Museum. That was about four years ago.

Stan suffered a debiliating stroke a few weeks ago while camping alone.

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Old 5th Apr 2022, 07:55
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Vale Stan Gajda - Aviation Archeologist

Indeed, very sad news that Stan has passed on. His activities in Australia for many years before going out to the islands are also noteworthy. His passion for aviation archeology and his hunt for wrecks, not just aircraft, seemed almost to be never ending.

Years ago he present to me some small pieces of aircraft wreckage that I still hold dear to me and are now a memory of him. One piece was from the Mitsubishi Dinah remains that he rediscovered near Truscott in WA and the other was a piece of the Carnot Bay Diamond DC-3. Over the years he had given me a few other pieces, each with a bit of history.

It is time for you to rest now Stan. Thank you for being part of my life, I really enjoyed the experience.

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Old 5th Apr 2022, 17:34
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I can picture Stan now, an epic bloke. Remember the time he took a live shell on a plane (probably Air Nauru)?
One less of the good old guys .... RIP
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Old 6th Apr 2022, 03:15
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While in Tarawa Stan made a credible fake sub machine gun using a Holden exhaust pipe and other bits. It was a bit too long to fit in his suitcase so he carried it wrapped in a hesian covering aboard an Air Nauru flight into Melbourne. (This was in the 1980's). Customs was on to him when asked if he had anything to declare.

He unwrapped the fake gun and showed it to the sceptical Customs chap who examined the replica gun (it was very realistic) and went to confiscate it saying "You could kill someone with this."
Stan arced up and said semi-jokingly that "the only person it would kill is you unless you let me have it back."

I can vouch for the authenticity of that story, because after that clash with Customs he was given the fake gun back and he came back to our house and told me the story.
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Old 23rd Apr 2022, 09:50
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Stan The Aeroplane Man

I first became friends with Stan after being in contact with him via email in 2012 in regards to the Flying boat wrecks in Broome, after re-discovering the Dutch D0-24 X-36 off the coast of Anna Plains Station that he found during the 1980's .
We became good friends, I went and visited him in Pohnpei and we soon explored WW2 aircraft wrecks in the jungle and a Japanese float plane base.
He guided me on restoration techniques on a restoration project of a Colt MG40 .303 machine gun that was pulled up on a fisherman's anchor in Roebuck Bay from a Dutch Catalina wreck, it was a project that he guided me on via email when he was in Pohnpei ... its now in the Broome Museum and looks amazing after 70 years under the sea.
Stan was a great mentor and friend . ...... Farwell my Friend
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Last edited by dion marinis; 23rd Apr 2022 at 10:26.
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Old 24th Apr 2022, 22:32
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Vale Stan.
pictures of his finds turned up all over the place. Does anyone know if he has/ had
/ published any album collections of his material. He certainly visited some rare places.
His material is valuable historic stuff and needs to be preserved.
RIP that aviation archeologist/ explorer supreme.
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Old 25th Apr 2022, 20:20
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How I wish I'd actually got to meet Stan! Our interests were similar; we'd beaten the same paths too. I only knew of him through my contacts with Geoff Goodall; the latter's article on Kimberley wartime wrecks provides a great insight into Stan's activities. See https://www.goodall.com.au/australia...leyrelics.html

It seems that he was following my own fumbling footsteps from a few years earlier; this is by no means me big-noting as his research/exploration activities made mine look distinctly amateurish. For instance, I thought I'd located all the wreckage of Buffalo A51-13 on the marsh a few miles south of Derby - Geoff's article reveals that Stan found pieces that clearly I'd missed!

Vale Stan - we need more like you.
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Old 26th Apr 2022, 09:38
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Old 31st Jan 2024, 16:22
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Stan helped me restore my Japanese tank

Hello all,
I never met Stan in the flesh but we pin paled for 20 years.
Long story short: I obtained what I call Japanese tank remains from MGM studio CA after helping on the "Windtalkers" movie. I came across an article on the web about Stan and the Japanese tank he brought back to life.

His and my tank were Type 97 TE-KE tankette, 4.5 ton two man machines. My pile of parts consisted of track, driver sprockets, transmission and most of the wheels. No engine, turret or gun.

Although I bought and used a 1/35 fine molds plastic scale model. Stan provided the lions share of pictures and data that I used to reconstruct the machine.

The first mountain we climbed together but separately was the turret. I remember he took his STANLEY tape and measured the top and bottom edges. I laid the flat collar looking piece out on the shop floor then made a full sized cardboard template. Stood the template up on the shop floor in the round turret fashion and checked the 4.5 taper. Next cutout same from 1/2" steel plate and had the flat part made round in a slip roll machine.

We did many sub projects together that produced a fine looking near complete tank project.

One final "Thank you Stan" for all did for a guy you never met although I feel I know you like a brother.

Rest in peace, Stan
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