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  C-46D-20-CU Commando Serial Number 44-78490  
USAAF
5th AF
374th TCG
6th TCS

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Richard Leahy 1978
Pilot  F/O John L. Zagata, T-65832 (KIA, BR) Rochester, NY
Co-Pilot  1st Lt. Ruford D. Scott, O-831820 (KIA, BR)
Engineer  Sgt Keith L. Peters, 37346579 (KIA, BR) Denver, CO
Asst Enginee  Pfc William B. McFadyen, 18178289 (KIA, BR) Cermyn, Texas
Radio  SSgt Louis Tootsey, 15097583 (KIA, BR) Van Lear, KY
Crashed  October 10, 1945
MACR  14977

Aircraft History
Built by Curtiss-Wright. Constructors Number 22313. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-46D-20-CU Commando serial number 44-78490.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 374th Troop Carrier Group (374th TCG), 6th Troop Carrier Squadron (6th TCS). Radio call sign, W8490. No nose art or nick name. When lost, engines were R-2800 series 75 left FP-087528 right engine FP-086931.

Mission History
On October 10, 1945 took off from Biak Island piloted by F/O John L. Zagata on a cargo flight bound for Finschafen Airfield. This aircraft made contact by radio at 7:14pm with Madang and 7:34pm with Port Moresby. The last radio contact at 7:45pm indicated this aircraft was in the vicinity of Saidor. When this aircraft failed to arrive it was officially listed as missing.

Search
For several days afterwards, aircraft conducted an extended searched from Port Moresby and Madang without results. On October 16, 1945 a crash site spotted was spotted from the air and presumed to be the missing C-46. The next day, the same crash site was was overflown but no signs of life were observed. A ground search left from the north coast and traveled over 100 miles inland, but failed to reach the site due to difficult terrain and lack of any native trail, and no natives could be found who had been to the crash site.

Wreckage
This C-46 crashed into the north face of the Saruwaged Range at an elevation of 11,000' into a rocky hillside covered with kunai grass, roughly 12 nautical miles north of Boana.

Recovery of Remains
On October 25, 1948, a team from American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) led by Sgt. Robert T. Swith visited the crash site and recovered the remains of the crew. During early 1949, the remains of the crew were transported to the United States for permanent burial.

During 1978, the crash site was rediscovered by Richard Leahy and Noel Spalding and landed at the crash site by helicopter.

Richard Leahy adds:
"The AGRS Sgt. who visited the site in 1948 wrote quite a lot of info on the outside of one of the large starboard side double doors. It was legible at the time of my visit and I have good B&W photographs of it. While visiting the crash, we discovered more remains of the crew. These remains were missed by the 1948 AGRS recovery mission. Some of the crew must have moved from the rear fuselage (still in one piece although open) and covered a distance of about 20 to 30 meters and  positioned themselves under the starboard wing section. I actually have photographs of the remains in situ. This was the only shelter available anywhere. I assumed (not necessarily correctly) that one or more survived and crawled up under the wing in an attempt to get warm."

During 1979, a team from US Army CILHI led by Lt. Col. William Flick and Major Johnny visited this crash site and recovered the additional remains found the previous year by Richard Leahy and Noel Spalding.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission.

Zagata was buried on July 13, 1949 at Arlington National Cemetery at section 12 site 4524.

Scott is buried at Resthaven Memorial Park in Midland, TX.

Peters was buried in 1950 at Crown Hill Cemetery in Denver, CO. at block 51.

McFadyen is buried at Graceland Cemetery in Jermyn, TX.

Tootsey is buried at Saint Anthonys Garden Catholic Cemetery in Van Lear, KY.

Relatives
Mike Peters (nephew of Sgt Keith L. Peters)
Beverly Miller (sister of Sgt Keith L. Peters)
"I am the sister of Keith L. Peters who was the crew chief on this plane. My parents were sent remains in 1949 that the government said were my brother. He was drafted into the army from there as we were living there at the time. In 1945 dad moved us to Spokane but the folks always considered Denver home as they had quite a few relatives there and in Missouri. My mother and dad are also buried near Keith as is my sister, Shirley Lease. The 4 lots are together in the Masonic section of Crown Hill. I have pictures of my brother in front of his plane, named "Dear Mom'. I am not sure who the other two fellows are. I also have the studio pictures taken before he shipped overseas. As soon as the holidays are over I will get them out again and scan them for you."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John L. Zagata
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Keith L. Peters
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William B. McFadyen
USAF Serial Number Search Results - C-46D-20-CU Commando 44-78490
"78490 (374th TCG, MSN 22313) lost Oct 10, 1945, SW Pacific."
Missing Air Crew Report 14977 (MACR 14977) created October 14, 1945
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - C-46 Commando 44-78490
FindAGrave - John L. Zagata (grave photos)
FindAGrave - Ruford D Scott (grave photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Keith L. Peters (grave photo)
FindAGrave - PFC William B McFadyen (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Louis Tootsey (grave photo)
Thanks to Richard Leahy, Mike Peters and Beverly Miller for additional information

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Last Updated
October 8, 2020

 

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