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Richard Leahy April 1979
David Pennefather 1980
Richard Leahy 1980
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Stanley D. Campbell, O-775783 (MIA / KIA, BR) Pioche, NV
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Robert H. Cameron, O-833022 (MIA / KIA, BR) Elkhart, IN
Radio Cpl George E. Cunningham, 32412902 (MIA / KIA, BR) Brooklyn, NY
Engineer Cpl Carl A. Drain, 32735839 (MIA / KIA, BR) Hemlock, NY
Passenger Captain Vladimir M. Sasko, O-393120 U.S. Army Medical Corps (MIA / KIA, BR) Chicago, IL
Crashed December 10, 1944 at 12:22pm
Built by Douglas. Constructors Number 10077. On August 19, 1943 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-47A-50-DL Skytrain serial number 42-24215. Ferried overseas to via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
On February 12, 1944 assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 317th Troop Carrier Group (317th TCG), 41st Troop Carrier Squadron (41st TCS). Nicknamed "The Fireball Mail". Nose Number X56 (Field Number/Buzz Number X56). When lost, engines R-1830-32 serial numbers 42-72708 and 42-72965.
On December 10, 1944 around 11:42am took off from Dobodura Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Stanley D. Campbell on a cargo flight bound for Hollandia. Aboard was passenger Captain Vladimir "Vlad" M. Sasko, M. D. The weather was scattered visibility with about .9 cloud coverage with tops at 10,00', rain showers and negative visibility.
At 12:22pm roughly 40 minutes after take off this aircraft made a radio call to request weather information. Another C-47 piloted by 1st Lt. Richard G. Korthals who was flying in the vicinity of Saidor reported the weather in the area was bad. This was the last radio call from this aircraft. When this aircraft failed to arrive it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). This aircraft was deemed to have been lost due to bad weather.
1st Lt. Richard G. Korthals, C-47 pilot 41st Troop Carrier Squadron (41st TCS) recalls:
"Stanley Campbell was flying on my wing on 10 December 1944. We had flown from Cyclops Strip at Hollandia to Milne Bay [sic Dobodura], a 5 1/2 hour flight, to pick up burlap bags of coffee beans. On our return we flew up the coast line to Lae and then turned up the Markham Valley. We encountered a wall of clouds past Nadzab and radioed back and forth in discussing our course of action. I told Stanley that the showers beneath the clouds would probably be spotty and that I was going to get on the deck and make my way over the jungle to Hollandia (which I did - and I can still see the rain showers and the tree tops.) He radioed that he was going north, climbing to get over the mountain range and would then follow the coastline from Wewak area to Hollandia. We parted at that point. He never arrived at Cyclops, our home strip. Several days later I spent hours flying over the area where we parted company looking for either wreckage or strips where he might have made an emergency landing. Nothing was ever found. I have never forgotten that day. The story of the recovery of the wreckage and the bodies has put a period to an unfinished sentence that has been part of me for almost 61 years."
Afterwards, a search was led by 1st Lt. Max W. Custer from APO 565 (Hollandia) that performing a pattern search by four C-47s along the probable route of the missing plane and alternate courses. No trace of this aircraft or the crew was observed. Afterwards, no further searches were made.
In fact, this C-47 crashed at at roughly 11,000' in the Sarawaget Range of New Guinea. Likely, this aircraft was in bad weather or clouds and one wing hit the ridge causing it to go into a spin and crash killing everyone aboard. On impact, everyone was in the cockpit area and was killed in the crash. One person was in the rear and was thrown outward and landed 164' / 50m from the impact site.
During 1975, while flying at 10,000' Richard Leahy piloting Cessna 185 P2-MJL spotted the wreckage in
the Sarawaget Range approximately twenty miles north of Nadzab.
Recovery of Remains
"My second trip in 1979, made to the site was to accompany a CILHI group that was led by Col. Bill Flick and included Major Johnny Webb and Sgt Kelly. David Pennefather also participated. This was in April 1979. We did not find too much, only a piece of the pilot's jaw (Lt. Stanley D. Campbell), and the remains of Cpl Drain. We only remained there for a few hours."
2) During October 1980, a team returned from U. S. Army CILHI led by Lt. Col. David Rosenberg with Captain Rick Huston. During the visit, the team recovered the remains of Cpl Drain. They also located the skeleton of a monkey from the Philippines that was likely aboard as a pet or mascot of the crew.
Afterwards, the remains recovered were transported to U. S. Army CILHI and tested and on October 15, 1981 a review board decided the evidence showed conclusively that the remains were those of Cpl Carl A. Drain. On November 16, 1981 his parents were notified that the remains of their son had been located and identified.
Richard Leahy recalls:
"The third CILHI expedition, October 1980, was led by Lt. Col. David Rosenberg, one of nature's gentlemen. Sadly I have completely lost track of him. Once again we failed to locate too much although we did recover the remains of one individual, Cpl. Carl A. Drain. We also dug up the skeleton of a monkey. Probably taken along as a mascot. The remains of three Americans and one unmanifested passenger [Captain Vladimir Sasko] remained on site at this time. I firmly believe that a full recovery is possible using the digging techniques developed thirteen years ago by CILHI. We concluded that the doctor was on board because we found his baggage which included incidentally an unbroken bottle of Chateau Tanundra Brandy. It was still full. This was subsequently dropped and lost."
3) During November 2004 a team from Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) including anthropologist Dr. Jay Silverstein, EOD Chris Tarrant and contractor Brian Bennett returned to this crash site and recovered the remains of the other four individuals: Campbell, Cameron, Cunningham and Sasko. At the crash site was found a bracelet with "One of the crew had a silver bracelet engraved with "Love Barbara December 24, 1944". Likely, this was a gift sent ahead of Christmas 1944. Also found was the aircraft's altimeter and clock frozen at the moment of impact.
During 2004–2005 families of the crew were contacted by the Department of Defense (DoD) and told their relatives were accounted for and their MIA cases were resolved.
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