Mystery of 1945 USAF C-46A Curtiss Commando Crash Revealed

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Diphu April 24: In 2010, partial wreckage of a US Air Force plane was recovered in a densely forested area of Singhason hill range of Karbi Anglong district. It was believed to be a USAF C 46A aircraft which was reported missing in 1945. Until today, there was no trace of the two missing airman, recorded as First Lieutenant William M Duffey and Sergeant Thomas J French.

Recently a team of police carrying out an anti insurgency operation near the probable crash site in a high altitude area of Singhasan hill range discovered a few more parts of the aircraft although engine parts are yet to be retrieved. The Additional Superintendent of Police Karbi Anglong Bolin Deuri, who was leading the police force photographed the parts which appear to be the engine. Now Dr Abhijit Rabha, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karbi Anglong is examining the photographs and is hopeful of discovering something big.

Recently in an interview with an English daily, Rabha said “In 2011-12, I was in the team that found evidence of an USAF aircraft that crashed in the hills of Karbi Anglong. What we found were pieces of the undercarriage of an aircraft. This wasn’t sufficient to identify it accurately. After a lot of research, I came to know that a USAF C-46A Curtiss Commando had crashed in the vicinity on July 15, 1945. Unfortunately, I couldn’t continue with the search as I was abducted by militants in 2012. Now, nearly three years later, Bolin Deuri, additional SP, Karbi Anglong, has sent me some photographs of two engines. From these photographs, it looks possible that it is the same aircraft,”

USAF C 46A Curtiss Commando
USAF C46A Curtiss Commando

Dr Rabha contacted a group of Indian Air force officers who said that during the British war against the Japanese and Azad Hind force in South east Asia, particularly in Myanmar and in several places in north east India, sorties were carried out from air force bases in and around Kolkata. It is believed that the wreckage of bombers shot down is lying sprinkled in inaccessible hostile places throughout north east India.

Rabha, the most ecstatic researcher of this mystery communicated with Gary Zaetz, founder of the US Arunachal Missing In Action group. Zaetz recently issued a catalogue of 84 missing US pilots and other crew, and according to Gary Zaetz, all the airman went missing from various aerial locations over north east India during WW II.

Lailur, a village situated in the high ridge of Singhason hill, is where Rabha recovered an aluminum plate affixed to the cockpit of the wreckage. That plate depicts the serial number of the aircraft as 42-107331. According to Rabha’s investigation, this particular aircraft crash was recorded by US authorities to have been taken place near Dimapur (Nagaland).

This aircraft was piloted by First Lieutenant William M Duffey and Sergeant Thomas J French. Rabha has not yet successfully collected any details regarding its take off place or its destination.

Sushanta Roy is a journalist in Assam, India, who photographs and writes about the people, animals and flora of Assam, and the things that affect them.