David Tallichet, also known as the father of the modern theme restaurant scene, had a lot more feathers in his cap than you might know. Yes, he built several successful businesses that redefined the fine dining experience, but his most appreciable achievement had nothing to do with his occupation. The man was an avid collector of classic military planes, some of which, he also made replicas. During his quest to find something uniquely special, he unraveled a missing piece of history that has an unprecedented level of significance.
Before he made a killing in the food business, he was a part of the military. He was stationed in Europe during the Second World War where he flew the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress multiple times as a co-pilot.
After completing his service, and introducing the world to modern themed restaurants, he discovered his innate passion for planes. This was when he started collecting and replicating military planes. His company also provided replica planes that were used in movies like Pearl Harbor.
Tallichet wanted to do more than just collect planes; he wanted to find some of the ones that nobody was looking for, but were still pretty much there. He wanted to unravel the forgotten secrets of history.
To do this, he assembled a team to trek through one of the remotest and undeveloped pieces of land in the entire world; the Papa New Guinea. The journey was supposed to be hard and testing, but Tallichet knew that greatness didn’t come easy; it had to be earned.
Before we talk about the objective of the mission, let’s take a journey back in time. The year is 1942, and World War 2 has reached its pinnacle. Two Air Corps Captains from the US Army, Henry Maynard, and Fred Eaton have been asked to embark on a dangerous, life-threatening mission.
Both of these national heroes were flying from Australia and experiencing great adversity from the opponents. When battling the opposing forces in New Britain, they took some beating and were left with a very few and bleak options.
What happened next was tragic. The mission went awry, and the plane took a nosedive in the middle of the Papa New Guinea Jungle. There was a group of nine people left, and they had an apparently unassailable task ahead of them: Find their way out of the jungle.
With insurmountable odds stacked against them, they started their trek to safety, but the U.S. B-17E bomber was the baggage they left behind. The six-week journey through the jungle was an arduous test of their mettle, with malaria looming around, and the exhaustive heat eating their leftover stamina, but the soldiers managed to escape certain death.
The pilots were kept busy by the war, but the forgotten and semi-destroyed battleship rested between the jungle with no hope of a savior.
The worst part about the situation was that the swamp seemed inaccessible and the terrain that led to the tomb was very hard, even for warriors.
Everybody had chosen to forget about the swamp ghost, but Tallichet knew it was still sitting there, waiting for someone brave enough to rescue it. The mission of the war legend was incomplete, and it needed a helping hand to apply the finishing touch.
The beauty of the Bomber was that it was still pretty much intact but not officially retired. That is why it was regarded as the only unretired, entire B-17E Bomber from the time of the Second World War. Tallichet helped change that.
It was a Eureka moment for the trekkers when they finally laid eyes on the plane, even though they knew what they were looking for. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it had them cheering for hours straight!
The next big hurdle was to somehow disassemble the plane and shift it to a safer place, somewhere it can rest in peace, with all its might. However, during their first visit to the site of wreckage, the team wasn’t able to move the plane, and it stayed put for another 8 months.
The swamp ghost was finally given an official retirement when it got shipped back to its forever home. Today, it lies peacefully at the Pacific Aviation Museum, in the state of Hawaii. Its life was of solitude in the Papa Guinea Jungle, but now, thousands of people come to honor its grandeur every year.
Tallichet died in 2007, but not before he gave more to the world than he ever took. His accomplishments will keep his name alive in the decades, even centuries to come.