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  C-46D-20-CU Commando Serial Number 44-78490  
USAAF
5th AF
374th TCG
6th TCS

Click For EnlargementClick For Enlargement
Richard Leahy 1978

Pilot  F/O John L. Zagata, T-65832 (KIA) Rochester, NY
Co-Pilot  1st Lt. Ruford D. Scott, O-831820 (KIA)
Engineer  Sgt Keith L. Peters, 37346579 (KIA) Denver, CO
Asst Engineer  Pfc William B. McFadyen, 18178289 (KIA) Cermyn, Texas
Radio  SSgt Louis Tootsey, 15097583 (KIA) Van Lear, KY

Crashed  October 10, 1945
MACR  14977

Aircraft History
Built by Curtiss-Wright. Constructors Number 22313. Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 374th Troop Carrier Group, 6th Troop Carrier Squadron. Radio call sign, W8490. No nose art or nick name. When lost, engines were R-2800 series 75 left FP-087528 right engine FP-086931.

Mission History
Took off from Biak Island on a cargo flight bound for Finschafen Airfield. Last contact was by radio with Madang 1914 and Port Moresby at 1934. Last contacted via radio in the vicinity of Saidor at 1945. This C-46 crashed into the north face of the Sarwaged Mountain range at 11,000', roughly 12 nautical miles north of Boana village in kunai grass.

Search
For several days afterwards, aircraft conducted an extended searched from Port Moresby and Madang for this C-46, without results.

On October 16, 1945 the crash site was located from the air presumed to be this crash site. It was overflown again the following day, but no signs of life were observed. A ground search departed from the coast, traveling over 100 miles inland, but failed to reach the site due to difficult terrain and lack of any native trail, and no natives could be located who had visited the crash site either.

Wreckage
On October 25, 1948, the crash site was visited by a team from US Army AGRS led by Sgt. Robert T. Swith and remains of the crew were recovered.

In 1978, the wreck was rediscovered by Richard Leahy and Noel Spalding who flew into the site via helicopter.

Richard Leahy adds:
"The AGRS Sgt. who visited the site in 1948 wrote quite a lot of info on the outside of one of the large starboard side double doors. It was legible at the time of my visit and I have good B&W photographs of it. While visiting the crash, we discovered more remains of the crew. These remains were missed by the 1948 AGRS recovery mission. Some of the crew must have moved from the rear fuselage (still in one piece although open) and covered a distance of about 20 to 30 meters and  positioned themselves under the starboard wing section. I actually have photographs of the remains in situ. This was the only shelter available anywhere. I assumed (not necessarily correctly) that one or more survived and crawled up under the wing in an attempt to get warm."

During 1979, a team from US Army CILHI visited this crash site and recovered the additional remains found by Leahy and Spalding in 1978. The mission was led by Lt. Col. William Flick and Major Johnny Webb.

Memorials
The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. In 1949, the remains of the crew were returned to the United States for permanent burial. Zagata was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 12 site 4524 on July 13, 1949. Tootsey is buried at Saint Anthonys Garden Catholic Cemetery. Peters was buried in 1950 at Crown Hill Cemetery in Denver, CO. The other crew are buried in private cemeteries (details unknown).

Relatives
Mike Peters (nephew of Sgt Keith L. Peters)
Beverly Miller (sister of Sgt Keith L. Peters)
"I am the sister of Keith L. Peters who was the crew chief on this plane. My parents were sent remains in 1949 that the government said were my brother. He was drafted into the army from there as we were living there at the time. In 1945 dad moved us to Spokane but the folks always considered Denver home as they had quite a few relatives there and in Missouri. My mother and dad are also buried near Keith as is my sister, Shirley Lease. The 4 lots are together in the Masonic section of Crown Hill. I have pictures of my brother in front of his plane, named "Dear Mom'. I am not sure who the other two fellows are. I also have the studio pictures taken before he shipped overseas. As soon as the holidays are over I will get them out again and scan them for you."

References
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - C-46 Commando 44-78490
Thanks to Richard Leahy, Mike Peters and Beverly Miller information and photographs.

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Last Updated
April 28, 2014

 

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