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  C-47A-35-DL "Hell's Bells" Serial Number 42-23959  
5th AF
433rd TCG
69th TCS

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Kell Nielsen 1968

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John Loughman 1969

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Kell Nielsen 1973
Pilot  1st Lt Joe Pate, O-798325 (survived)
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt John E. Mass, O-774698 (survived)
Crew  S/Sgt Waldo C. Ball, 16031491 (survived)
Crew  M/Sgt Harold A. Case, 6669109 (survived)
Force Landed  September 14, 1944
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas Aircraft Company. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-47A-35-DL Dakota serial number 42-23959. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 433rd Troop Carrier Group (433rd TCG), 69th Troop Carrier Squadron (69th TCS). Nicknamed "Hell's Bells". Nose Number 354. Australian call sign VH-CHK.

Mission History
On September 14, 1944 took off from Garbutt Field near Townsville flown by an aircrew from the 68th Troop Carrier Squadron on a flight bound for Port Moresby. During the flight, this C-47 experienced trouble with the left engine and electrical system. The cargo was thrown out, but the aircraft continued to loose altitude. Next, the right engine started to malfunction as the aircraft reached the southern New Guinea coast. This C-47 successfully forced landed at Fairfax Station near Galley Reach, roughly 15 miles west of Port Moresby at roughly Lat 9.04 Long 146.52.

Fate of the Crew
None of the crew were injured in the landing. All were returned to Port Moresby.

This aircraft remained at Fairfax Station. Sometime during 1966-1967 the nose section was cut off and taken to Jacksons Airport. Both engines, and one cowling with the name "Joanne" or "Joanna" were recovered to the PNG War Museum. The rest of the wreckage was scrapped sometime later or otherwise disappeared.

Michael Claringbould visited the wreck in 1964:
"I was driven to the Fairfax site by Port Moresby resident Russell Lamb. Along for the ride were his sons Peter & Greg and other unknown parties. The wreck still had its nose section then, and I recall with considerable clarity that when you entered the wreck through the rear door, you were greeted by the smell of hydraulic fluid. The fuselage had side-saddle arrangement, and some of the checkered leather padding was still in place in the forward fuselage. The 1968 photo show considerable deterioration in four years ! The forward fuselage was cut off around 1966/67 and sent to the fire fighting section at Jacksons Drome alongside a Catalina 68045 fuselage, where both were used for practice drills. Don't know what happened to it after that. I last saw the nose section at Jacksons (still with three-digit squadron number visible) in 1971."

Ray Fairfield recalls:
"Closer to the ridges and a bit further north was a belly-landed C-47. As of early 1960's the locals had cut off the fuselage roof along the window line. I remember the rest of it as very knocked about."

Kell Nielsen recalls:
"The person who I first worked for took me out there first time in a Land-Rover [in 1968]. On the way from Boroko to Jacksons we took the right turn at the T intersection past a poultry farm and then turned left. Then it was between 3 and 5 miles on dirt road till we came to some big mud flats it was on a slightly raised area to the right of these mud flats. If you compare my Photograph of me standing in the Land Rover and the later negatives from 1973, you will see how much the Pandanus at the tail end has grown."

USAF Serial Number Search Results - C-47A-35-DL 42-23959
"23959 (MSN 9821) delivered Jul 6, 1943 - 5th AF Brisbane Aug 22, 1943 - "VHCHK" ADAT 69 TC Sq/433 TCG Crashed Sep 14, 1944 Fairfax Cattle St, Pt Moresby, NG. Recovered post 1971 for use at Jackson Apt, fire practice"
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - C-47 Dakota 42-23959

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Last Updated
January 2, 2022


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