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US Army Oct 1942
US Army Nov 7, 1942
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Earl B. Lattier, O-790013 (KIA, BR) Vermilion Parish, LA
Co-Pilot Pilot Officer Francis Debenham Milne, 33516 RAAF (KIA, BR) Southport, QLD
Crew T/Sgt Joseph E. Paul, 13006214 PA (KIA, BR) PA
Crew Sgt Arthur Believe, 16028217 (KIA, BR) NY
Crashed November 26, 1942
Built by Douglas. Constructor Number 4629. On August 30, 1942 Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as . Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
During October 1942, assigned to the 5th Air Force, 374th Troop Carrier Group, 6th Troop Carrier Squadron. Assigned 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 Dakota to land at Pongani Airfield and was photographed on the ground being unloaded by 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.
On November 26, 1942 took off from Dobodura Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Earl B. Lattier on a flight bound for 5 Mile Drome (Wards) 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.
After the crash, Americans reached the crash site and recovered some remains of the crew.
Recovery of Remains
The remains of all four crew were recovered.
During 1990, the wreckage was again located by Frank Egiembari and David Pennefather and additional remains were located.
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."
During 1990, remains were recovered by US Army CILHI, and transported to Hawaii for forensic identification.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. Paul and Believe are were officially declared dead on November 26, 1942. The three Americans are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
After the recovery of remains, Milne and Paul are buried together at Arlington National Cemetery at Section 34. collective grave 4754. Milne is the only Australian buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Earl B Lattier is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at Section 70 Site 970. Believe is buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY at Plot: S grave 3350.
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'."
After the loss of this aircraft, C-47 41-38678 was nicknamed "Swamp Rat II".
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
Arlington National Cemetery Website - Francis D. Milne Pilot Officer Royal Australian Air Force
CWGC - Francis Debenham Milne
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Earl B. Lattier "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joseph E. Paul "Remains recovered"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur Believe "Remains recovered"
FindAGrave - Earl B Lattier (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Joseph E Paul (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Francis D Milne (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Arthur Believe
Thanks to Michael Claringbould, Daniel Leahy, Edward Rogers and Phil Bradley for additional information
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