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  C-47A-35-DL "Gremlin Special/Guinea Gopher" Serial Number 42-23952  
USAAF
5th AF
317th TCG
39th TCS

Click For Enlargement
July 1945

Pilot  Col. Peter Prossen, O-22803 (KIA) San Antonio, TX
Co-Pilot  Major George H. Nicholson, O-298227 (KIA) Medford, MA
Engineer  SSgt Hilliard Norris, 14072653 (KIA) Waynesville, NC
Asst Engineer  Pfc Melvin A. Mollberg, 17035891 (KIA) Baudette, MN
Radio  Pfc George R. Newcomer, 32273013 (KIA) Middletown, NY
Passenger  T/Sgt Kenneth Decker, 19005776 (rescued) Kelso, Washington
Passenger  Cpl Margaret J. Hastings, A-218021 (rescued) Owego, NY
Passenger  1st Lt. John S. McColom, O-467272 (rescued) Tranton, MS
Passenger  1st Lt. Robert E. McCollom, O-468926 (KIA) MS
Passenger  Maj. Herman F. Antonini, O-351875 (KIA) Danville, IL
Passenger  Cpl Charles R. Miller, 36181551 (KIA) Saint Joseph, MI
Passenger  Captain Louis E. Freyman, O-392996 (KIA) IN
Passenger  Pfc Marian C. Gillis, A-901668 (KIA) Hollywood, CA
Passenger  1st Lt. Lawrence F. Holding, O-535205 (KIA) Raleigh, NC
Passenger  Major Phillip J. Dattilo, O-336086 (KIA) Louisville, KY
Passenger  Captain Herbert F. Good, O-262232 (KIA) Dayton, OH
Passenger  Pfc Mary M. Landau, A-207742 (KIA) Brooklyn, NY
Passenger  Sgt Belle G. Naimer, A-116702 (KIA) New York, NY
Passenger  Cpl Melvyn A. Weber, 19180552 (KIA) Compton, CA
Passenger  Pfc Alethia M. Fair, A-920130 (KIA) CA
Passenger  Sgt Helen G. Kent, A-902290 (KIA) Taft, CA
Passenger  Tec3 Marion W. McMonagle, A-311096 (KIA) Philadelphia, PA
Passenger  Pfc Eleanor Hanna, A-311558 (died May 14, 1945) Montoursville, PA
Passenger  SSgt Laura Besley, A-306040 (died May 15, 1945) Shippenville, PA

Crashed  May 13, 1945
MACR  14697

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 317th Troop Carrier Group, 39th Troop Carrier Squadron. Call Sign VH-CHG. Noes Number 13. Nicknamed "Gremlin Special / Guinea Gopher". MACR lists nickname as "Merle". When lost, engines 1830-92 serial numbers CP350692 and 350967.

Mission History
Took off from Sentai Drome near Hollandia on a sight seeing trip with five crew and 19 passengers (including 8 women) led by Col. Peter Peterson to view the Hidden Valley / Shangri-La (Balim) between Hollandia and Merauke.

Unable to find the location initially, the plane circled, then went lower for a closer look.  The C-47 was caught in a downdraft, and crashed, with only five surviving who were in the rear of the plane.  Two of the survivors (Pfc Eleanor Hanna and SSgt Laura Besley) died the following two day from their wounds.  The three remaining survivors set off on foot towards the hidden valley but collapsed.

Rescue Mission
Twenty-four aircraft from Hollandia searched for the lost plane. Spotted from the air, two paratrooper Filipino Regiment medics jumped to tend to their wounds twice a day for more then a month.

Plans were made to rescue them from the valley, by dropping paratroopers in to prepare a landing strip.  Another group went to the wreck and buried the 19 crew members, laying 19 crosses and 1 star of david at the site. It took several weeks to clear the landing strip.

On June 28, 1945 a C-46, towing a CG-4 Glider arrived, dropped the glider that was setup with its tow cable on two posts. C-46 swooped low and snagged the line, with the three survivors aboard and medics.  It took a total of 47 days to rescue them.

Memorials
Those killed in the crash were permanetly buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group burial at section 70 site 16187-89 during 1959. Good is buried at Arlington National Cemtery at section 11 site 84 LH.

Relatives
Darlene Ryan adds:
"I found Antonini listed as MIA list on May 13, 1945. I later found a record from the veterans' cemeteries that said he died on May 13, 1945, and was buried in 1959. His name was Maj. Herman F. Antonini, US Army Air Force, service number O-351875."

References
Readers Digest “A WAC in Shangri-La” by Cpl Margaret Hastings with Inez Robb, Nov 1945
The Forgotten Fifth by Michael Claringbould profiles this loss
Lost In Shangra-La website by Mitchell Zuckoff

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Last Updated
January 1, 2014

 

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