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  C-47-DL "Swamp Rat" Serial Number 41-38601  
USAAF
5th AF
374th TCG
6th TCS

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US Army Oct 1942

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US Army Nov 7, 1942

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Aerothentic 2008
Pilot  2nd Lt. Earl B. Lattier, O-790013 (MIA / KIA, BR) Vermilion Parish, LA
Co-Pilot  Pilot Officer Francis Debenham Milne, 33516 RAAF (MIA / KIA, BR) Southport, QLD
Crew  TSgt Joseph E. Paul, 13006214 (MIA / KIA, BR) Montgomery County, PA
Crew  Sgt Arthur Believe, 16028217 (MIA / KIA, BR) NY
Crashed  November 26, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Constructor Number 4629. During August 1942 delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-47-DL Skytrain serial number 41-38601. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
During October 1942, assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 374th Troop Carrier Group (374th TCG), 6th Troop Carrier Squadron (6th TCS). Australian call sign VH-CCY or possibly VH-CFX. Nicknamed "Swamp Rat" with the nose art of a large white rat painted on both sides of the nose. On the tail was a white horizontal stripe above the U.S. Army Air Force serial number.

On November 7, 1942 this C-47 was the first plane to land at Pongani Airfield and was photographed on the ground being unloaded by soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Division. It became temporarily bogged at the end of the runway before successfully taking off. During late November, this C-47 took part in operations between Wanigela Airfield and Dobodura Airfield.

Mission History
On November 26, 1942 took off from Dobodura Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Earl B. Lattier on a flight bound for 5 Mile Drome (Ward) near Port Moresby. Aboard was Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) co-pilot Pilot Officer Francis Debenham Milne. While flying at low altitude over the north coast of New Guinea, intercepted without warning by A6M2 Zeros and shot down. Last seen bursting into flames before hitting the ground. Two wartime positions were given for the crash site: (1) four miles south of Popondetta and (2) five miles south of Dobodura. Also lost was C-47 "Shady Lady" 41-38631.

Wreckage
After the crash, Americans located the crash site and recovered the remains of the four crew.

During 1989, the crash site was rediscovered by Frank Egiembari and David Pennefather who found additional remains. Afterwards, a team from U.S. Army CILHI recovered the remains and transported them to Hawaii.

David Pennefather recalls:
"The most significant of my experiences whilst at Popondetta, that belongs to a C-47 transport named Swamp Rat. Frank led me to this wreck. Human remains were found in the wreckage. As it turned out two American and one Australian. The remains were subsequently recovered by the US Army but because the remains could not be separated one from the other were interred in a joint grave at Arlington. The Australian, named Milne, being the only Australian buried at Arlington National Cemetery."

John Douglas visited the crash in 1995:
"I have been to this wreck about 1995, with Frank Egiembari. He shot a pig, and we had a great adventure. We found half a skull a shoulder blade and part of an Australian uniform, there were Aussie crew aboard. The US Army Quartermaster people didn't do a very good job. I turned over some wreckage on the ground and remains were clearly visible."

Recovery of Remains
When the crash site was first located in 1942, the remains of the crew were recovered. The remains recovered in 1989 were identified by the Department of Defense (DoD) as Lattier.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. After this loss, C-47 Skytrain 41-38678 was nicknamed "Swamp Rat II" with similar nose art.

The three Americans: Lattier, Paul and Believe earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. The three Americans are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing, after the recovery of remains a rosette was added next to their names indicating they were identified.

After the recovery of remains, Milne and Paul were buried on November 16, 1989 at Arlington National Cemetery at section 34, collective grave 4754. Milne is the only Australian buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Lattier was buried on September 7, 1994 at Arlington National Cemetery at section 70 site 970.

Believe is buried on November 23, 1990 at Long Island National Cemetery at plot S grave 3350.

Relatives
Phillip Brunskill (nephew of Francis Debenham Milne)
"As part of my search I have found an alternative crew members: Lt Church, Dial that featured in the Pongani bogging and who flew alternate days on "Swamp Rat" as was the practice. I have found the Australian co-pilot a Len Ball and interviewed him! He has given me a story of the 'Swamp Rat'."

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Earl B. Lattier
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Joseph E. Paul
USAF Serial Number Search Results - C-47-DL Skytrain 41-38601
"38601 (MSN 4629) to USAAF Aug 30, 1942 - 5th AF, Australia Oct 03, 1942, operated as ‘VHCCY’. Later to Pacific Wing ATC, cancelled Jun 01, 1946. Also reported as being shot down by Japanese fighters Nov 26, 1942 and crashed 5 mi S of Dobodora, PNG. 4 killed."
Casualty File Microfilm 80350 Frame 1354 (Aircraft serial number incorrectly quoted as C-47 41-18601 [sic] )
RAAF Survey of Aircraft Wreckage, Papua New Guinea page ?
"#210 | Lat 08.39 Long 148.17 | Popondetta | USAC C-47 41-18601 [sic C-47 41-38601] | Wreckage recovered 4 miles south of Popondetta"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - C-47 41-38601 lists call sign as VH-CFL
WWII Pacific Air Transport History List, Volume 1 (2000) page 350
CWGC - Francis Debenham Milne
Arlington National Cemtery (ANC Explorer) - Francis D. Milne (group burial photos)
FindAGrave - PO Francis Debenham Milne (photo, group burial photo)
Arlington National Cemetery Website - Francis D. Milne Pilot Officer Royal Australian Air Force
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earl B. Lattier "Remains recovered"
Arlington National Cemtery (ANC Explorer) - Earl B. Lattier (grave photos)
FindAGrave - Earl B Lattier (grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph E. Paul "Remains recovered"
Arlington National Cemtery (ANC Explorer) - Joseph E. Paul (group burial photos)
FindAGrave - Joseph E Paul (group burial photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur Believe "Remains recovered"
FindAGrave - Arthur Believe (grave photo)
Thanks to David Pennefather, John Douglas, Michael Claringbould, Daniel Leahy, Edward Rogers, Phil Bradley and Phillip Brunskill for additional information

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Last Updated
November 2, 2021

 

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