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Oakley Leonard Thomas

 

Reproduced for the website of Peter Dunn

http://home.st.net.au/~dunn/ozcrashes/qld150.htm

At 6.00am on 18 September 1945, RAAF C-47 Dakota, A65-61, VH-CUT, of 38 Squadron RAAF, took off  from Wama Airfield on Moratai in New Guinea . It arrived at Mokmer airfield on Biak Island at 10.30am. The Dakota then took off in clear weather at 11.15am enroute to Townsville via Horn Island . Normal procedure for aircraft departing from Biak was to radio in 15 minutes after take-off and then again when they had reached their cruising height. A65-61 did not make its first 15 minutes radio call and totally disappeared along with its 28 occupants. No trace was found during searches in New Guinea . It was thought that it would not have reached the Australian mainland.

On 16 October 1968, an American Missionary, Jerry Reeder, was flying his aircraft across the Nassau Range in West Irian at 14,500 feet when he saw a flash of light below him. He flew down lower to discover the wreckage of a large silvery aircraft on the side of Mount Carstens . In mid 1970, Jerry Reeder returned with two American timbermen from the D.E. Lowe Corporation in a Bell Ranger helicopter and landed near the wreckage.

They were able to determine that it was a WW2 Dakota military aircraft. The camouflage had faded from the metal fuselage but they were able to find the letters "CUT" in faint yellow letters on the tail of the wrecked aircraft. They found many scattered human bones and a half-burnt women's shoe near the wreckage.

The Dakota had hit the side of the valley with one of its wingtips which then slewed the aircraft into the 3,000 feet high mountain side. It then fell to the valley below and caught fire. Although in a valley, it was located at a spot 13,500 feet above sea level. 

28 military personnel were killed in this crash:-

On 3 December 1970, the Australian military implemented Operation "Tropic Snow" to recover the remains of those killed in this tragic crash. Support aircraft that flew into Biak were three Hercules C-130's, two Iroquois, a Caribou and an Army Pilatus Porter.

After some delays due to bad weather, a RAAF Iroquois winched down two personnel to the crash site. They were winched out about 90 minutes later with the remains of the victims of this crash. The remains were taken to Port Moresby for identification.

From 'The (Newcastle) Herald'
Saturday 25 June 2005:

"At rest at last

Sixty years after they died in a World War II rescue mission, 29 Australians are to be laid to rest.
Defence Minister Robert Hill announced yesterday that the remains had been recovered of crew and patients on RAAF Dakota A65-61, which crashed in Papua New Guinea .
A military funeral is planned for later this year in PNG.
The RAAF was transferring wounded servicemen from Indonesia to Townsville when the plane crashed on September 18, 1945."

 

 

 

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