Crash site of USAAF C-47 found in Malaya

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"It'll take time before we can confirm anything." Quote from Dr O' Leary.

It's difficult to critisize organisations that are performing MIA recoveries.

But I note that the date that the C-47 was first located and reported was not mentioned in the article.

Earlier this year a Fifth Air Force P-47 pilot was buried in up state New York. His crashsite was located in 1962. That's 53 years from locating to burial.

In 1962, many of his near relatives were still alive. They are not alive now. I wonder if the US Government notified them of the find in 1962? I suspect not.

Profile picture for user Matt Poole

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On July 7, 1966 the substantial, easily identifiable wreckage of this C-47 was first discovered, but there was no excavation conducted. The mother of casualty Lt William H. Myers was told in a 1968 letter from the US Air Force that in the years since the 1945 crash “all remains disappeared.” This was an easy way of passing the buck, as the only way to know if remains were present would have been to dig.

In 1985 two rattan hunters stumbled upon the wreckage. This made the press at the time, but again the US passed the buck on a recovery project.

In October 2009 local villagers reported the wreck to US officials in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with no success. Malaysian Brig Gen Akbar Din (Ret) notified the US Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC)*. I have a copy of his report, which was acknowledged by JPAC*. Gen Din reported that no remains were seen at the site, but it was suspected that remains would be found in the cockpit section that was buried in the hillside and had not been dug out. Furthermore, JPAC* was notified that the substantial wreckage was in danger of being cut apart for scrap, and that the case required quick attention.

Justin Taylan of Pacificwrecks.com publicized the case on his website and, I think, also brought it to JPAC*'s attention.

[COLOR="#FF0000"]CLARIFICATION from researcher Anthony Morris, mentioned further below in the text: "The part of Justin Taylan finding is in error. Our group found it first and assembled the MACR and Crash Report on Facebook. Justin Taylan used our detailed info to announce it on his site. Earlier to that, he only had Gen. Din's info, which was nothing like ours. You can check up on our FB to see how Justin poached our info and contacted Bill [Myers, nephew of Lt William H. Myers, one of the casualties] for confirmation."
[/COLOR]
Then a deeply focused, honorable, and successful private wreck investigator with an impressive resume, Shaharom Ahmad of the non-profit Malaya Historical Group (MHG), took up the challenge of humping up to the remote wrecksite (2012) and lobbying the US to investigate before the wreckage disappeared. Already someone had begun dismantling pieces for scrap. It was a race against the clock. Shaharom was joined in this endeavor by American MIA and genealogy specialist Gary Zaetz and Malaysian private researcher Anthony Morris, also dedicated to finding and recovering the crew’s remains. In fact, Morris had been researching this aircraft's disappearance since 1986. The kin of at least two of the three men, maybe all three, were found, and some of these became impassioned activists who also worked hard via elected congressional representatives to get JPAC* to investigate.

Morris created the members-only Facebook site "C-47B-1-DL Dakota Serial Number 43-16261" as an offshoot of MHG to augment and concentrate recovery efforts. ADDENDUM: Per Anthony Morris, Justin Taylan of Pacificwrecks.com joined the Facebook group, grabbed their information, put it on his website, and did not give proper credit to MHG or the Facebook crew. Naturally, this does not sit well with those who were ripped off. Taylan was kicked out of the Facebook group.

The lobbying effort, by and large, was met by bureaucratic drivel that dragged on and on.

I offered my skills to the team, as well. DigitalGlobe Corporation, which supplies satellite imagery to Google, kindly provided me with high resolution modern imagery covering the crash site (which by that time Shaharom's guys had visited, photographed, and videotaped). I plotted this in Google earth and created a series of 3-dimensional profiles of the mountain, including the crash location high up a mountain. A lesser-quality 3-D image (not using DigitalGlobe's hi res satellite imagery) is attached.

And then things turned sour this year for Shaharom's group after it was learned that JPAC* would be conducting a full recovery mission. Shaharom and his colleagues were completely cut out of the picture by Malaysian military with whom they had closely, and successfully, worked on other in-country recoveries in recent years. Furthermore, smear tactics were employed to paint MHG in a bad light. It's bizarre, really. And in all press reports the substantial efforts of MHG and colleagues has been overlooked. My ego isn't an issue here, as I was a very minor player in this project, but Shaharom and Anthony have especially taken a hit. It's truly ugly stuff that defies explanation.

Of course, the bottom line is that a sustained effort by selfless individuals -- Shaharom, Anthony, Gary, kin of the missing, and others -- made possible the JPAC* mission; it would never have happened otherwise. Because of this, the families of the three crewmen at least have a chance of one day being able to bury their loved ones, who had repeatedly been ignored by different US government administrations: after the initial 1966 discovery of the wreck, and again in the mid-1980s. And then since 2009 the pace has been non-existent for long stretches, and molasses-like for much of the remaining time. Then, boom, things went into motion in 2015, and head games were ramped up. Shaharom's former colleagues in the Malaysian military decided to change their tune for reasons that defy logic.

*JPAC as an organization has rightfully been raked over the coals in recent years for various bureaucratic bunglings. The US Dept of Defense responded by morphing JPAC into a revamped entity named "Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency". One recent Internet news story had this to say: the creation of the new agency was "a move that came a year and a half after the AP obtained an internal Pentagon study that criticized previous efforts as being in danger of spiraling from 'dysfunction to total failure.'

Thankfully, though, the US government does have such an agency for recovering the missing...unlike the British.

Attached are three photos, one of each casualty. Left to right they are Myers (co-pilot), Baskett (pilot), and Jones (radio operator).

Also attached is a photo of the tail unit, clearly showing the serial number and the Air Transport Command logo.

Below are some transcribed news stories from the past.

Regards,

Matt
++++++++++++++++++++++++++
[I]Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Wed., July 20, 1966, pg 8 (Texas newspaper):

LONG-LOST WRECK FOUND

WASHINGTON --- The Army said today the wreckage of a plane found last week in Malaysia was that of a C-47 which vanished in November, 1945, while on a flight from Singapore to an airfield in what was then the Malay states.

"No trace of the aircraft was found until the recent discovery," the Army said.

Reports of the location of the wreckage were carried last week from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Army records listed the three-man crew of the plane as:

1ST Lt. William H. Myers of Elizabethtown, Pa., Flight Officer Judson B. Baskett of Paducah, KY., and Pfc. Donald E. Jones of Mascoutah, Ill.

The crew was declared dead and their remains unrecoverable by action of an Army board which met in India in 1948, the Army said, adding:

"Since there was no evidence of remains at the crash scene, there is no plan to send a
search or recovery team to the area now."

The Army said it has had no contact with the next of kin of the three crewmen for many years and cannot verify the addresses, which were the last known.
[/I]

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

[I]The Star newspaper, 24 June 1985:

Mystery in the jungle

IN THE jungle near Bruas, the mystery of a wrecked plane remains unsolved despite the fact that it has attracted the interest of many people.

First discovered by two rattan collectors early this year, the plane is believed to be an American transport plane which had crashed into the jungle during the Second World War.[/I] [No, it was first discovered in 1966.]

Its “jungle grave” is situated on a slope in the forest reserve area of Bukit Bubu, about 600 metres above sea level.

The wreckage is located about 16km from the Bruas main road, 10km of which consists of a steep and winding jungle track.

The last two kilometres have to be covered by foot as the stretch is impossible to be spotted from the air unless the pilot dares to venture dangerously low.

An emblem on the plane bears the wordings “The Air Transport Command, US Army Air Forces”.

Other wordings include the numbers “C-62” [no, “C” above larger “61”] and “316261” printed on the tailplane.

The words “Rayon Airplane 9-00 6 8PIY, BF Goodrich” can be found on one of the tyres.

On a radio receiver found on the plane are these words “Signal Corps, US Army Radio Receiver Bc-454-B, Serial No:412 0 8. Made by Western Electric New York, N.Y.”.

Part of the fuselage is buried but the end portion of the plane was not badly damaged.

The pilots of the plane could have baled out before the crash as no human remains have been found so far.

Officials from Museum Negara and the Military Museum plan to visit the site for investigations.

Perhaps their visit would help solve the mystery.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/local-news/knoxvillian-hunting-uncles-remains-from-half-a

Knoxville, Tennessee, USA story:

Knoxvillian wants uncle's reburial in US
Book's not closed on 1945 crash

Fred Brown
May 28, 2012

In the early morning hours of Nov. 27, 1945, three months after the end of World War II, an American C-47 Skytrain military cargo plane lifted off with its crew of three returning from Singapore to Butterworth Airfield at Penang, Malaysia.

Visibility was decent, and even though the weather was a bit dicey across what was known then as the Malay States, it was not bad enough to ground the plane.

The crew's flight plan was for the workhorse cargo plane to skid along the relatively flat Malaysian western coastline, staying clear of the unpredictable maw and storm-packed mountains just to the east.

Pilot and 1st Officer Judson Baskett from Texas, co-pilot 1st Lt. William H. Myers of Elizabethtown, Pa., and Pfc. Donald E. Jones, radio operator, of Minnesota, were the only crew members aboard the twin-engine transport, affectionately known as the Gooney Bird.

It was about 7:30 a.m. as the three young airmen climbed into the cockpit at Singapore's Kallanga Airfield. The crew had delivered a planeload of supplies to Singapore and now was headed back to the 1305th Army Air Force Base Unit's airfield at Butterworth, a former British Royal Air Force Base that had been captured by the Japanese but was now back in the control of the Allies.

The weather report that morning said visibility was 15-20 miles with scattered showers. The plane was cleared for 8,000 feet altitude, a normal ceiling, but generally flew at 2,000 feet.

The crew and plane never made it back to Butterworth. Their last radio contact came about 9:19 a.m., when radio operator Jones reported that the plane passed over Malacca at 9:10 a.m. and that its arrival at Swettenham was expected to be at 9:43 a.m. They were then flying at 2,000 feet, Jones reported. That was his last communication.

"I think the crew was flying by the seat of its pants," says Bill H. Myers of Knoxville, who was named for his uncle Lt. William Myers.

Bill Myers is on a mission to find his uncle's remains and return them to Elizabethtown, where Edith R. Myers, his grandmother and the mother of the lieutenant, is buried.

Myers, a jobs counselor for the Knoxville Urban League, has been intricately involved for the past three years attempting to bring his uncle's remains home.

For most of his life, Myers heard stories about the downed plane from his grandmother, who unsuccessfully sought to have the military conduct a search and rescue in Malaysia and return the remains of her son as well as the other crew members.

She died in 1973, never knowing what happened to her son. Her only information was a telegram that her son was killed in action in Malaysia. It was delivered by taxicab.

"I think all three of the crew were looking out the widow trying to see where they were," Myers says of the crash.

His theory is that the crash was the result of some obvious possibilities: engine trouble, bad weather or both.

An official military air crash report at the time says bad weather was brewing, and two other C-47s that took off after Myers' craft had also reported concerns with weather. But the latter two planes radioed that they were turning out toward the funnel-shaped blue water of the Strait of Malacca to avoid the storm.

"What I think happened to them (his uncle and crew), is they ran into a storm," says Myers. "There were three planes going back (to Butterworth Airfield), but they were not flying in formation or together."

He says his uncle's plane was the first to hit the storm, with the later planes eventually running into the same weather system.

The later planes quickly turned west for the safety of the Strait, Myers says, but his uncle's craft, he thinks, was apparently blown off course, back toward the mountains and the jungles.

Bill Myers, a University of Tennessee graduate and a Vietnam War veteran, recalls how unexpected storms brew up in Southeast Asia.

"I think the C-47 came upon one of those sudden storms and did not have time to get out of it."

The mountains of Malacca "stick right up," says Myers, with jungle heights rising from 4,000 to roughly 6,000 feet above sea level.

Matt Poole of Wheaton Crest, Md., who is part of the large group of people searching for and researching the crash of the C-47, pegs the location of the plane at 2,894 feet, a figure he derived from elevation information from some Malaysians who made it to the site this year.

The crash hunters used a GPS receiver and from that, Poole writes in an email, he used the "latitude and longitude ... entered this into Google Earth software, and I plotted the location. Then, using this software's terrain features, I arrived at an approximate crash site elevation of 2,894 feet."

"The nearby mountaintop, further up the same terrain feature, is roughly 3,330 feet. So, I'd guess, the impact was about 436 feet below the summit's elevation.

"On the same flight path, beyond this hilltop, there is an even larger mountain. I measured it at 5,316 feet, although a map in my possession gives an elevation of 5,437 feet."

"Either way," Poole writes, "the terrain feature is around 2,000 feet taller than the mountain where the C-47 crashed. In bad weather, had the aircraft cleared the first obstacle, it could not have avoided the second, larger one unless a course change had been called for."

Bill Myers says he hopes to hold a memorial service if his uncle's remains are found and returned.

"I want to complete the circle and give my grandmother the closure she always wanted," says Myers.

Over the many years, Edith Myers had never lost hope. But when the C-47 was sighted smashed into the heavy jungle growth of the mountain in 1966 — 21 years after the crash — she came to face the realities.

Bill Myers said that the 1966 sighting brought his grandmother some renewed hope, but the military dismissed the finding. The nose of the aircraft had bored into the mountainside and only the fuselage and tail were visible from the air.

"When the plane was sighted in 1966 from the air for the first time and identified by its tail numbers, she knew he was not alive, but her hopes to really know what happened were crushed by those (military) form letters saying the crash was unrecoverable," Myers says.

The original military search ended after about a month of flights over the thick jungle. It was then the military declared William Myers killed in action, December 1946.

Lt. Myers' mother still refused to hold a memorial service, saying she wanted to know what "happened to the boys."

The story of the missing military aircraft from World War II could end here, but the historical mystery has gained an enormous following around the globe due to die-hard Malaysian crash-site hunters and stories on the Internet.

Now C-47B-1-DL Dakota (Skytrain is the American designation), Serial Number 43-16261, has its own Facebook page, which is open to members only.

Anthony Morris of Ipoh in the state of Perak, Malaysia, is one of the primary crash hunters. He learned the history of the plane and became interested after a story was featured in a local Malaysian daily in 1986. The crash site is due west of Ipoh.

Via an email, Morris said that, "in 2001, I started communicating with Shaharom (Shaharom Ahmad, administrator of the Malaysia History Group)," Morris said. I'm also part of MHG."
Morris said he created the C-47 Facebook site "as an offshoot of MHG to augment and concentrate recovery efforts with a select group of members."

After he and Shaharom began researching the Internet for more information on the C-47, they ran across several more people who were also researching the story. Since then, the effort has grown to include hundreds of people.

Despite the ruggedness of the steep terrain, Shaharom has visited the crash site. His photos of the crash are also posted on the C-47 Facebook page.

Myers [should read "Morris"] says that these photos, maps and videos have spread the interest in the story around the world, connecting people who have become fascinated with the crash and recovery of the crew.

He eventually encountered Knoxville's Bill Myers and began the Facebook page.

"This (new page) eliminated the need for emails and allowed members to post any info received and also to post photos as they were found. It opened a whole new dimension in being kept informed," Morris said in an email.

Then, late last year, Shaharom decided to lead a team to look for the wreck but the mission failed when torrential rain and bad roads stalled the team.

In early 2012, Shaharom tried again and this time found the wreck and crucial evidence of crew remains, including part of a jacket and what appear to be bone fragments.

"It was this discovery that brought prominence to the wreck in the (United) States," Morris wrote in the email.

"Lois Herr (Bill Myers' cousin and cousin to Lt. Myers) and Bill started a media blitz to keep it alive and were determined not to allow it to disappear from the radar as the last two times in 1985 and 1966."

Morris says that Shaharom posted photos and videos on the crash site, which has now been picked over by rattan hunters, some of whom have actually lived in the fuselage. Then there are souvenir hunters and scrap aluminum haulers who are making it to the site, despite the harshness of the mountain.

Bill Myers now worries that the site will be ruined before members of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command can get to the crash site.

Myers says he has been told JPAC has put the plane site on its schedule and will mount an effort to get to the site by the end of this year.

He has provided the military with his DNA in hopes that it will match any remains JPAC might uncover at the site. In addition, Herr, his cousin of Mount Gretna, Pa., has given military authorities a wartime letter from Lt. Myers to her father, Ira Herr, in hopes there will be DNA on the envelope.

However, Myers says, time is running out.

"More people know about it now. The fuselage is being cut up by people stealing aluminum," he says.

"We want someone up there before it (the crash site) is destroyed. We need to get the site surveyed."

Getting to the crash scene is easier said than done. It means about five miles through the jungle and about nine miles up the side of the mountain.

"There are logging roads and ATC vehicles can get there now," Bill Myers says. "But it is still difficult."

The search and hoped-for return of 1st Lt. Bill Myers, says his cousin Herr, has become something more than finding closure for a World War II veteran and his family.

"It is surprisingly personal. When I heard they (Malaysians) were actually going to the site, I took flowers to Edith's grave. She tried so hard to get her son home."

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Profile picture for user Matt Poole

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Thanks for that, 43-2195. I had just discovered that story last night and had time to use one quote taken from it, but I didn't have time to properly read the story until I used your link. It sounds promising -- DPAA contracting out some of the collecting work.

Cheers,

Matt

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Some factual clarification in my main post was necessary. I have added it in red text.

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As a followup...

This local Pennsylvania news video (after the long ad at the beginning), from the 14th, I think, announces that human remains were found at the C-47 crash site. I haven't yet seen anything else to confirm this:

http://www.wgal.com/news/remains-of-wwii-soldier-could-be-brought-home-70-years-after-death/35844616

Lois Herr, who is interviewed, has worked hard in government circles to make the excavation possible, so if she says remains were found, it must be true. The stick-to-it devotion of Shaharom Ahmad, Anthony Morris, Lois, Gary Zaetz, and others made this recovery possible. As mentioned in an earlier posting, their efforts will never be properly acknowledged by either the Malaysian government or the US government.

Matt

ADDENDUM: From the nephew of 1st Lt William H. Myers, the co-pilot: DPAA (formerly JPAC) has notified the family that remains have been recovered.

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" I wonder if the US Government notified them of the find in 1962? I suspect not.

What makes you assume that?

Inside knowledge...or just a dislike of America?

As you state, at least America (unlike most nations) is doing something.

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What makes you assume that?

43-2195 suspects...not assumes. Fundamental difference.

As you state, at least America (unlike most nations) is doing something.

He didn't state that...I did -- IN PART. I did not say "unlike most nations". My full quote was: "Thankfully, though, the US government does have such an agency for recovering the missing...unlike the British."

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It's difficult to critisize organisations that are performing MIA recoveries.

His words....
I interpreted that as "As least the U.S. is doing something".
Fair assessment.

Also, one's "suspects" something due to past assumptions.
He took a rather positive story about a nation trying to do the right thing by its war dead and makes a comment unrelated to the events being discussed. I was asking for the reason behind that.

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Further details, just received from Lois Herr, relative of co-pilot William H. Myers:

JPAC [now called DPAA] worked with the Malaysian Government to complete the recovery mission in mid-September. I was notified by personal phone call that human remains were recovered. We are waiting now to hear when the repatriation of the remains will take place and whether it will be in Hawaii or Malaysia. Then the DNA work will be done and we will find out if the remains can be identified as Myers, Baskett, and/or Jones. We're hoping all three can be returned home now, 70 years after they lost their lives in the crash of that C-47 into the jungle mountains of Malaysia.

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At the end of Post #9 I mentioned that the British do not actively seek out and recover the missing from wrecksites. I believe that in rare instances remains have been recovered from sites found by others in the UK or geographically nearby, but never in the Far East. The recovery of remains from the Malaysian jungle crash site of RAF Liberator KL654 is a prime example of this.

One report, before the team of volunteers successfully excavated at their own expense (and with direct Malaysian military involvement) because the UK adamantly refused:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/6067385/Volunteers-forced-to-launch-private-mission-to-recover-RAF-crews-bodies.html#

A post-burial story:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2219632/Remains-RAF-crew-died-World-War-II-rediscovered-years-ago-given-military-funeral-Malaysia.html

The UK government tried to spin all publicity in their favor, as if they were dedicated to this recovery/reburial from the start. Hah! Ask the Malaya Historical Group, and others involved, what they think of British officialdom, who set new records in ugly bureaucratic bull, even after the recovery of remains by others forced them to analyze the remains, acknowledge that they were of KL654 crewmen, and set up the burial in a CWGC cemetery in Kuala Lumpur. Blood is still spit out when those associated with the research and recovery hear the letters "JCCC".

Here's a Dec 2014 story about the 1948 wreck of an RAF Dakota in the Malaysian jungle, and the unrecovered remains of the three-man crew:

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1657076/efforts-have-disturbed-remains-raf-crew-crashed-jungle-malaysia-1948

To have neither a mandate to recover such remains nor the budget for recovery operations has been a reality of modern economics, I suppose, that could change but likely will not.

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J BOYLE, in response to your post. I try very hard not to assume anything. My suspicion that the relatives were not informed in 1962 is based on my 25+ years working both directly and indirectly with CIL-Hi, JPAC and now DPAA. They have a huge workload and a limited budget. If the initial investigation of the P-47 site revealed no human remains or personal effects (as was the initial finding), then my experience suggests that they would not contact the relatives. As the bottom line would be ,"your loved one remains Missing in Action". Single pilot aircraft (predominantly fighters) create problems for DPAA, as there is always the very real likelihood that the pilot bailed out. The decision makers go to great lengths to gather all available data before committing to dig a MIA fighter where human remains have not been found. It is a very costly exercise. I know of at least 8 such cases in PNG. In three of them the recovery was successful, one was unsuccessful and four are still under consideration.
My comment about hard to criticize, relates to all involved wanting the same goal. I don't believe criticism will assist in reaching that goal. DPAA is effectively the public service, some of their SOP's whilst operating in remote areas in foreign countries leave me perplexed. But, as Matt points out, the US Government is more proactive in this field than any other. I do get frustrated with the long time periods involved between discoveries, initial investigation, recovery, identification and formal burial. But patience is a virtue, and when I look back across my 25 years working in PNG, quite a few of the aircraft and crews that were missing when I first arrived have been located and numerous repatriations have taken place. So in hindsight, progress is being made.