Bruce Fenstermaker 1987
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Thomas H. Fletcher, O-810641 (MIA / KIA, BR) Marion, IN
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Robert W. McDowell, O-721828 (MIA / KIA, BR) Wooster, OH
Navigator 2nd Lt Carl F. Copeland, O-811318 (MIA / KIA, BR) MA
Radio Sgt Charlie A. Donnelly, 11117634 (MIA / KIA, BR) Newton, MA
Engineer TSgt James E. Wilson, 35677218 (MIA / KIA, BR) Middletown, OH
Crashed January 9, 1945 at 10:30am
Built by Douglas Aircraft Company. Constructors Number 18942. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-47A-65-DL Skytrain serial number 42-100479. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 375th Troop Carrier Group (375th TCG), 57th Troop Carrier Squadron (57th TCS). No nose art or nickname. When lost, engines R-1330-92-41 serial number (left) CP-3578938 (right) R-41-1600.
On January 9, 1945 took off from Boroke Airfield on Biak piloted by 2nd Lt. Thomas H. Fletcher on a flight bound for Peleliu Airfield.
The weather was a heavy overcast with a ceiling at 1,000' over Biak. After take off, this C-47 made a turn to the right instead of the left to rendezvous with the rest of the formation at 10:30am. C-47 piloted by Lt. Bingham tried to contact this aircraft by radio but got no reply. When this aircraft failed to arrive it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
When this aircraft failed to arrive, other American aircraft were informed to search for this missing plane but failed to find any trace. Plus, Air-Sea Rescue plus C-47s from the 375th Troop Carrier Group searched for this aircraft.
On March 11, 1945, this C-47 was found in a swamp on the north side of Biak. The crash site was inaccessible aside from pack mules.
Recovery of Remains
On March 11, 1945 the remains of all the crew were recovered from the crash site. On March 12, 1945 they were buried at Bosnek #1 Cemetery (USAAF) on Biak. Later, the remains were transported to the Philippines and United States for permanent burial.
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the crash. As the flight was deemed to be non-combat, none of the crew earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.
McDowell is buried at
Manila American Cemetery at plot F row 8 grave 66.
Copeland earned the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters. He was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant, posthumously. Copeland is buried at
Manila American Cemetery at plot A row 3 grave 171.
Donnelly is buried at
Manila American Cemetery at plot F row 3 grave 52.
Fletcher is buried at Grant Memorial Park n Marion, IN.
This aircraft crashed on the north side of Biak.
Fenstermaker visited the crash in 1987:
"From what I remember
is - the 375th converted to C-46 aircraft late in 1944 but
this aircraft, albeit war weary was not retired at Biak but was
being still used. I believe this aircraft took off with two other aircraft
from the group/squadron but rather than turning the direction of
the other aircraft after take off, did not and for unknown reason
crashed near the north west of Biak. A note on geography is
that Biak is actually divided into two parts - Biak island to the
S/W and Superior is the local reference to the N/W portion separated
by a narrow isthmus. The crash site is located in the lower Biak
area itself but to the N/W near the coast area - inland. I had
gotten the MACR on this aircraft at about the same time as many others
- about 1986 for future surveys of Biak itself. In 1987 I took a
small boat up around the N/E coast
area of Biak stopping periodically to survey known /unknown/ unreported
crash sites along the Biak coast. This crash site was an added Datum
point to cross check the accuracy of the MACR report and location
itself. The info was correct and it added to my experience of surveying
and investigating sites. I also wanted to see if recoverability
of remains was related to dynamic forces and destruction of the aircraft
since the remains of the crew was recovered."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - C-47A-70-DL Skytrain 42-100479
"100479 (375th TCG) lost Jan 9, 1945, SW Pacific. MACR 11648"
Missing Air Crew Report 11648 (MACR 11648) created March 27, 1945
January 1945 USAAF Overseas Accident Report does not list C-47A 42-100479
FindAGrave - Lieut Thomas H Fletcher (grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert W. McDowell
FindAGrave - 2Lt Robert Wright McDowell (grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Carl F. Copeland
FindAGrave - 1Lt Carl F Copeland (grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles A. Donnelly
FindAGrave - Sgt Charles A Donnelly (grave photo)
FindAGrave - TSGT James E Wilson (grave photo)
Thanks to Bruce Fenstermaker, Ted Darcy and Phil Fazzini for additional information
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March 10, 2022