|Pilot F/O John L. Zagata, T-65832 (KIA, BR) Rochester, NY
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Ruford D. Scott, O-831820 (KIA, BR)
Engineer Sgt Keith L. Peters, 37346579 (KIA, BR) Denver, CO
Asst Engineer Pfc William B. McFadyen, 18178289 (KIA, BR) Cermyn, Texas
Radio SSgt Louis Tootsey, 15097583 (KIA, BR) Van Lear, KY
Crashed October 10, 1945
Built by Curtiss-Wright. Constructors Number 22313. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-46D-20-CU Commando serial number 44-78490.
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.
On October 10, 1945 took off from Biak Island piloted by F/O John L. Zagata on a cargo flight bound for Finschafen Airfield. Last radio contact was by radio with Madang 7:14pm and Port Moresby at 7:34pm. Last contacted via radio indicated the aircraft was in the vicinity of Saidor at 7:45pm. This C-46 crashed into the north
face of the Sarwaged mountain range at an elevation of 11,000' into a rocky hillside covered with kunai grass, roughly 12 nautical miles
For several days afterwards, aircraft conducted an extended searched from Port Moresby and Madang without results.
On October 16, 1945 a crash site was located from the air presumed to be this C-46. 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.
On October 25, 1948, the crash site was visited by a team from American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) led by Sgt. Robert T. Swith and remains of the crew were recovered.
During 1978, the wreck was rediscovered by Richard
Leahy and Noel Spalding who flew into the site via helicopter.
"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
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.
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).
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."
USAF Serial Number Search Results - C-46D-20-CU Commando 44-78490
"78490 (374th TCG, MSN 22313) lost Oct 10, 1945, SW Pacific."
Missing Air Crew Report 14977
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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June 10, 2019