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

Click For Enlargement
U. S. Army July 1945

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

Crashed  May 13, 1945
MACR  14697

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried via Hawaii across the Pacific to the South-West Pacific Area (SWPA).

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 317th Troop Carrier Group, 39th Troop Carrier Squadron. Australian Call Sign VH-CHG. Squadron Nose Number 13. Nicknamed "Gremlin Special / Guinea Gopher". Missing Air Crew Report 14697 (MACR 14697) lists nickname as "Merle". When lost, engines 1830-92 serial numbers CP350692 and 350967.

Mission History
On May 13, 1945 took off from Sentai Drome near Hollandia on a sight seeing trip with five crew and nineteen passengers (including eight 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 killing nineteen on impact. When this aircraft failed to return, it was listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Fates of the Survivors
Only five of the passengers in the rear of the C-47 survived the crash. The next day, Pfc Eleanor Hanna and SSgt Laura Besley died of their wounds. The three remaining survivors set off on foot towards the Hidden Valley but collapsed from exhaustion.

When this C-47 was reported as missing, twenty-four aircraft from Hollandia searched for the missing 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.

During 1959, the nineteen killed in the crash and the two that died the next day were permanently buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in a group burial at section 70 site 16187-89.

Good is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 11 grave 84-LH.
Hanna is buried at Twin Hills Memorial Park in Muncy, PA.
Besley is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at section U, site 10.

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."

Missing Air Crew Report 14697 (MACR 14697)
FindAGrave - COL Peter J Prossen (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - MAJ George H Nicholson (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SSGT Hilliard Norris (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Melvin A Mollberg (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - PFC George Robert Newcomer (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT Robert E McCollom (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - MAJ Herman F Antonini (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Charles R Miller (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Louis E Freyman (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Marian C Gillis (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT Lawrence F Holding (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - MAJ Phillip J Dattilo (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Herbert F Good (grave photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Mary M Landau (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Belle G Naimer (news, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - CPL Melvyn A Weber (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Alethia M Fair (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - SGT Helen Green Kent (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Marion W McMonagle (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - PFC Eleanor Pauline Hanna (photo, group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Laura E. Besley (photo, grave photo)
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
February 4, 2018


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