The wartime reality behind the mysterious visit of a Martin Mariner seaplane during World War II (A couple of mysteries to clear up, Northland Age, March 28) may have been solved, thanks to the vivid memories of a former pupil at Mangonui School.

Whangārei resident Rose Pera had no trouble remembering the incident.

"I remember that it was damaged and needed repairs," she said.

"It was towed by Bob Marchant to his jetty at Butler Point, where Bob carried out the minor repairs that were needed.

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"The crew came ashore to the Post Office to report on their whereabouts to base using Morse Code, and my older sister, who worked at the Post Office, was invited by the American crew to dinner at the Marchants' house. Later she was given a tour of the plane, which was a real highlight."

The arrival of the plane and her family's proximity to the Americans was the talk of the school for some time, and gave Rose instant school yard status.

According to Heritage New Zealand's Northland manager, Bill Edwards, float planes were slow in the air but had very long range, up to 2600 nautical miles (4800km), so it was possible that this one had flown to Mangonui from the Pacific after suffering damage in combat, or it may simply have needed repairs.

"Either way, Mangonui would have been a very welcome haven for the American crew until they were able to get under way again," he said.

"The fact that they were able to get word out through the Mangonui Post Office to comrades that they were safe would have been an added bonus."

Mr Edwards said encouraging people to share their stories and information had been central to the success of the Northland World War II Heritage Inventory project, which was currently being finalised by volunteer researchers Jack Kemp and Dr Bill Guthrie.

"It's tremendous that people like Rose have been able to share their knowledge, which in turn has helped build our understanding of what was going on militarily in Northland during the Second World War," he added.