D Pennefather 1985
A. Riroriro Nov 13 2018
|Pilot 1st Lt. Henry C. Ellis, O-888627 (KIA, BR) TX
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Franklin P. Miller, O-425589 (KIA, BR) NM
Crew Chief Sgt Michael E. Anderchak, 13041101 (KIA, BR) Allegheny County, PA
Radio Sgt John J. Budarek, Jr., 37186768 (KIA, BR)
Passenger Cpl Filmer F. Heikkila, 37186768 310th Fighter Squadron (KIA, BR)
Passenger TSgt Kenneth C. Spohn, 17031692 310th Fighter Squadron (KIA, BR)
Passenger Sgt Robert W. Thomas, 18004801 310th Fighter Squadron (KIA, BR) OK
Crashed April 1, 1944
Built by Douglas. Constructors Number 4693. At the factory, painted with olive drab upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces and U. S. Star insignia with U. S. Army serial number "118568" (shortened version of the full serial number 41-18568) painted in yellow on the tail.
On September 6, 1942 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-47-DL Dakota serial number 41-18568. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
On October 9, 1942 assigned to the 5th Air Force, 374th Troop Carrier Group, 6th Troop Carrier Squadron. Nicknamed "Dumbo" likely after the Walt Disney cartoon character. No known nose art. Assigned nose number 54 (Buzz number 54) and Australian call sign VH-CFE.
On November 5, 1942 took off from 5-Mile Drome (Wards Drome) near Port Moresby at 10:50am piloted by 2nd Lt Earl B. Lattier mission was to drop supplies to US Army 32nd Infantry Division, 126th Infantry Regiment crossing the Owen Stanley Mountains along the Kapa Kapa Trail near Bofu. The formation also included C-47 41-18498 (VH-CFB) and C-47 "The Broadway Limited" 41-38615.
Later, assigned to the 317th Troop Carrier Group, 40th Troop Carrier Squadron. During May 1943, this C-47 flew 205.10 hours, flying 121,880 pounds of cargo and 392 passengers. During June 1943 flew 121.40 hours and had six engine changes while in service.
On October 27, 1943 assigned to the 41st Troop Carrier Squadron as a replacement aircraft. By December 1943, this C-47 had flown 84.35 hours. By January 1944 flown 116.30 hours.
On April 1, 1944 took off from Dobodura piloted by 1st Lt. Henry C. Ellis on a flight with six others including three from the 310th Fighter Squadron as passengers. Also aboard was cargo including a jeep and vehicle parts. After take off, this C-47 crashed roughly five miles off Dobodura Airfield No. 7 (Girua Airfield) near and Popondetta.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the remains of the crew were recovered and buried in New Guinea. Postwar, the remains were transported to Hawaii and the United States for permanent burial.
During 1961, additional remains were recovered (details unknown). Likely, these remains were turned over to the Australian administration then to the Americans.
This C-47 crash site remains in situ near Awowota and the Girua River. The wreckage includes the crumpled crumpled tail section, fuselage with the chassis of the jeep, wings and engines. The tail serial number "118568" is still visible in yellow on the left side of the tail.
Until the 1980s, the rear fuselage and tail section were largely complete but since then collapse to lay flat on the ground.
David Pennefather recalls:
"Crashed about 7km southwest of Girua Airfield. The wreck has remains of jeeps in it."
During the 2000's local people claimed this aircraft has gold bars or other treasure aboard, which is false and incorrect. By the 2010s, the crash site area has been planted with oil palm.
Alexis Riroriro adds:
"The picture you see in the crash site taken by David Pennefather in 1985, the young boy holding a knife is me. I was age 12 in grade. At that time, David Pennefather was working in Oro in Mainland Holdings Company. I remembered this clearly. He told my dad information about the plane crash at that time. Yes, some giaman [false] story that the plane was carrying gold bars and they were digging around the vicinity of the plane crash. One of my grandfather was burning rubbish in his garden where the wrecks are there was a big explosion. Lucky for him he was a distance away. Probably the plane carried some bombs or ammunition."
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission.
Three are buried at Manila American Cemetery. Ellis at Plot A Row 5 Grave 185. Miller at Plot H Row 4 Grave 107. Thomas at Plot A Row 7 Grave 58.
Budarek is buried at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Cemetery (old) in Saint Louis, MO.
Heikkila is buried at Gilbert Cemetery in Gilbert, MN.
Spohn is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at Plot: J, 954.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Henry C. Ellis
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Franklin P. Miller
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Michael E. Anderchak
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Kenneth C. Spohn
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert W. Thomas
USAF Serial Number Search Results - C-47-DL Dakota 41-18568
"18568 (MSN 4693) to USAAF Sep 06, 1942 - 5th AF, Australia Jan 21, 1943, operated as ‘VHCCM’ - 317th TCG, 41st TCS ‘The Broadway Ltd’ [sic 'Dumbo'] - Crashed nr Dobodura #7 strip, New Guinea, condemned Apr 01, 1944"
Port Moresby Tower Log notes this aircraft wreck
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - C-47 41-18568 (lists call sign as VH-CCM and nickname "The Broadway Ltd.)
Allied Air Transport Operations SWPA in WWII Volume 2 pages 273, 292-293, 338, 348, 351-352
Note, other sources list this aircraft's nickname as "Dumbo".
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Henry C. Ellis
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Franklin P. Miller
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert W. Thomas
FindAGrave - 1Lt Henry C Ellis
FindAGrave - 1Lt Franklin P Miller
Sgt Robert W Thomas (grave photo)
FindAGrave - John Joseph Budarek, Jr (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Filmer F Heikkila (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Kenneth C Spohn (news article)
Thanks to David Pennefather and Alexis Riroriro
for additional information
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November 16, 2018