Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Recovery of POW remains in India Delayed

Crash Site in India
According to India's Express News Service, April 16"

An expedition by the US department of defence to recover remains of over 55 airmen from a World War II plane crash in Tripura in May has been postponed, with India reportedly not yet ready to give the go-ahead.

Sixty-seven years after the C47 43-48308 transport plane went missing, a team from the department’s Joint POW/MIA (Prisoners of War/Missing in Action) Accounting Command was reportedly planning to visit Tripura to recover the remains of US soldiers and return them to American soil for burial. The transport plane went missing on May 17, 1946 during a flight from Rangoon to Calcutta. Along with a three-member flight crew, it was carrying eight US military investigators and unusually, remains of 47 soldiers who had died as POWs of the Japanese.

But, as the families of the missing airmen were hoping to finally get a sense of closure, they received a notice from the US defence department that the recovery operations had been postponed indefinitely. “Recovery operations in India have been postponed until further notice from the Government of India,” said W Montague Winfield, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for POW/MIA Affairs. “We will continue to work with the Indians in hopes of conducting recovery operations there in the near future,” he said.

As per the US official, there are around “400 unaccounted-for US service members in India as a result of air crashes in World War II”.

According to official sources, the US side had been pushing for the expedition to reach Tripura by a specific date, but since arrangements by Indian authorities were not finished, the expedition was not given the green signal.

Sources said the expedition has only been postponed till a new date is fixed, and can take place this year depending on local conditions. The US first made a request to restart the recovery missions that had been suspended in 2009, during the political-military dialogue in April, 2012. At that time, India had said it was looking into the “possibility of agreeing to the proposal”.

Although the above article suggests that India is delaying, Military.Com notes that JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) recoveries are being hit hard by sequestration. The Indians may be simply frustrated that they are not getting paid. Nevertheless, American officials privately say it is taking time to build relationships with Indian officials as this would be the first recovery mission in India. They contrast the situation with Vietnam, which they characterize as going very well. Apparently diplomacy with India is very touchy.

The plane crash site was first discovered in 2009 by Clayton Kuhles, founder and leader of MIA Recoveries.

Here is Mr. Kuhles' report as it appears on his website. The list of POW remains, all having likely perished in Burma as POWs, is especially interesting for readers.

C-47B #43-48308 Missing Aircrew Report Site Report: 05 Nov 2009
This C-47 aircraft of the 10th Air Force was assigned to the post-war American Graves Registration Service (AGRS). Very early in the morning on 17 May 1946, it departed Mingaladon airport at Rangoon, Burma for Barrackpore / Calcutta, India. The aircraft had a crew of 3 from the 1304th Air Force Base Unit and 8 passengers, including a 6-man AGRS team. This aircraft was transporting possibly as many as 43 sets of US remains which were recently recovered by the AGRS team from POW cemeteries in southern Burma.
A heavy storm was developing over the Bay of Bengal that day, and it was moving to the N - NE. The aircraft would unavoidably be running into the storm along its route to Barrackpore. The standard flight route from Rangoon to Barrackpore required flying over the NE corner of the Bay of Bengal between Akyab, Burma and Calcutta. The pilot was known to dislike flying over water; furthermore, before departing Mingaladon, the pilot told airport personnel he could not fly over water on this flight because he did not have enough life jackets aboard. The pilot stated he would instead follow the coast, and if he encountered a storm over Akyab, he would fly N or NE to skirt around it.
The pilot radioed Barrackpore at 0610Z to report he had passed over Akyab at 0530Z, was flying on instruments and he expected to arrive at Barrackpore at 0800Z. At 0615Z the pilot radioed Barrackpore for a weather update, and Barrackpore had to respond to him twice due to heavy atmospheric interference. At 0705Z the pilot mistakenly responded to a call from Barrackpore to another aircraft and said he had nothing to report. This was the last contact with C-47B #43-48308. The plane was never heard from again and its location is unknown. Dead: 11 plus possibly as many as 43 sets of US POW remains.

Pilot: 1st Lt. Horace J. Gabbart, xxxx9790
Check Pilot: 1st Lt. Melvin L. Power, xxxx3431
Radio Operator: Pfc. Eugene F. Ryan, xxxx4187
Passenger: Lt. Cmdr. James T. Campbell, xxxx5425
Passenger: Capt. Roy W. Corley, xxxx7766
Passenger: 1st Lt. Harry Chan, xxxx7552
Passenger: 1st Lt. Henry E. Derbyshire, xxxx6766
Passenger: 1st Lt. Donald S. Dutton, xxxx8713
Passenger: SSgt. Glenn F. Cox, Jr., xxxx1684
Passenger: Sgt. Warren R. Haines, xxxx3730
Passenger: Cpl. Wallace J. Davis, xxxx1295

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for this well-written article. I must add, however, that the statement "this would be the first recovery mission in India" is factually incorrect. The first recovery mission in India in recent times began at the crash site of the 14th Air Force B-24J Liberator 42-73308 (nicknamed "Hot as Hell") in late 2008 and continued into 2009 until it was abruptly halted by the Indian Government. This crash site, where the remains of its 8-member crew are still believed to be located, had been discovered by Clayton Kuhles of MIA Recoveries on December 7, 2006, in the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The Government officials who told you privately that the recovery in Tripura would be the first MIA recovery in India are either ill-informed or trying to justify with fabricated history the Indian Government's interminable delays. Gary Zaetz, nephew of "Hot as Hell" navigator 1st Lt. Irwin Zaetz, and Vice-President (Research), MIA Recoveries.


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