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  C-47A-50-DL "The Fireball Mail" Serial Number 42-24215  
5th AF
317 TCG
41st TCS

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Richard Leahy April 1979

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David Pennefather

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Richard Leahy 1980
Pilot  2nd Lt. Stanley D. Campbell, O-775783 (MIA / KIA, BR) Lincoln County, NV
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Robert H. Cameron, O-833022 (MIA / KIA, BR) IN
Radio  Cpl George E. Cunningham, 32412902 (MIA / KIA, BR) NY
Engineer  Cpl Carl A. Drain, 32735839 (MIA / KIA, BR) Livingston County, NY
Passenger  Captain Vladimir M. Sasko, O-393120 U.S. Army Medical Corps (MIA / KIA, BR) Chicago, IL

Crashed  December 10, 1944
MACR  14302

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Constructors Number 10077. On August 19, 1943 delivered to the U. S. Army as C-47A-50-DL Dakota serial number 42-24215. Ferried overseas to via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 317th Troop Carrier Group, 41st Troop Carrier Squadron. Nicknamed "The Fireball Mail".

Mission History
On December 10, 1944 took off from Dobodura Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. Stanley D. Campbell on a cargo flight bound for Hollandia. Aboard was passenger Captain Vladimir "Vlad" M. Sasko, M. D. Last radio contact was in the Saidor area, when the pilot reported bad weather. When this aircraft failed to arrive it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Richard Korthals 41st TCS recalls:
"Stanley Campbell was flying on my wing on 10 December 1944. We had flown from Cyclops strip at Hollandia to Milne Bay, a 5 1/2 hour flight, to pick up burlap bags of coffee beans. On our return we flew up the coast line to Lae and then turned up the Markham Valley. We encountered a wall of clouds past Nadzab and radioed back and forth in discussing our course of action. I told Stanley that the showers beneath the clouds would probably be spotty and that I was going to get on the deck and make my way over the jungle to Hollandia (which I did - and I can still see the rain showers and the tree tops.) He radioed that he was going north, climbing to get over the mountain range and would then follow the coastline from Wewak area to Hollandia. We parted at that point. He never arrived at Cyclops, our home strip. Several days later I spent hours flying over the area where we parted company looking for either wreckage or strips where he might have made an emergency landing. Nothing was ever found. I have never forgotten that day. The story of the recovery of the wreckage and the bodies has put a period to an unfinished sentence that has been part of me for almost 61 years."

All searches for this C-47 were unsuccessful. On July 15, 1949 the entire crew was declared non-recoverable.

In fact, this C-47 crashed at at roughly 11,000' elevation in the Sarawaget Range.

During 1975, while flying at 10,000' Richard Leahy piloting Cessna 185 P2-MJL spotted the wreckage from 10,000' in the Sarawaget Range approximately twenty miles north of Nadzab.

Recovery of Remains
After discovery, this crash site was visited by CILHI / JPAC at least four times.

Richard Leahy recalls:
"I first went to this site soon after locating it. I funded two helicopter trips to the site and was accompanied by Noel Spalding. It was on this trip that I collected pertinent data on the aircraft for US Army CILHI. We also identified the aircraft as being a C-47A.

My second trip in 1979, made to the site was to accompany a CILHI group that was led by Col. Bill Flick and included Major Johnny Webb and Sgt Kelly.  David Pennefather also participated. This was in April, 1979. We did not find too much, only a piece of the pilot's jaw (Lt. Stanley D. Campbell), and the remains of Cpl Drain. We only remained there for a few hours.

The third CILHI expedition, October 1980, was led by Lt. Col. David Rosenberg, one of nature's gentlemen. Sadly I have completely lost track of him. Once again we failed to locate too much although we did recover the remains of one individual, Cpl. Carl A. Drain. We also dug up the skeleton of a monkey. Probably taken along as a mascot.

The remains of three Americans and one unmanifested Australian Doctor [incorrectly identified, actually Captain Vladimir Sasko] remained on site at this time. I firmly believe that a full recovery is possible using the digging techniques developed thirteen years ago by CILHI. We concluded that the doctor was on board because we found his baggage which included incidentally an unbroken bottle of Chateau Tanundra Brandy. It was still full. This was subsequently dropped and lost."

During November 2004 a JPAC team including anthropologist Dr. Jay Silverstien and Brian Bennett returned to this crash site and recovered the remains of the other four individuals: Campbell, Cameron, Cunningham and Sasko.

During 2005, relatives of the crew members were contacted by the DoD and and the case fully resolved.

The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. After the recovery of remains, the four American crew members were listed as "remain have been recovered" with rosettes.

Two of the crew have memorials markers in their hometown cemeteries in the United States.
Drain has a memorial marker at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Lima, NY.
Campbell has a memorial marker at Pioche Masonic Cemetery in Pioche, NV.

After the recovery of remains, Cameron was buried in November 2004 at Arlington National Cemetery at section 66 site 121. Vladimir was buried December  10, 2005 at Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago, IL.

Robert Cameron Karn (son of Robert Henry Cameron)
"I was born Robert Henry Cameron, Jr. (3/12/45) but my mother remarried after the war and I was adopted by Joe Karn (100th Inf Div veteran of France and Germany). So far the military has provided me with precious little information (they didn't even know Cameron had a son until it was brought to their attention by a circuitous route) but I am supposed to receive a briefing pursuant to the funeral next month. All I have been told by the casualty assistance office is that my father's remains were recovered in 2004 but not positively identified until just recently. I was also told that some "personal effects" such as his dog tags and wings were recovered from the site but have been given no further specific information."

Al Peterson (nephew of Captain Vladimir Sasko)

USAF Serial Number Search Results - C-47A-50-DL Dakota 42-24215
Missing Air Crew Report 14302 (MACR 14302)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Stanley D. Campbell "recovered and identified"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert H. Cameron "recovered and identified"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George E. Cunningham "recovered and identified"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Carl A. Drain "recovered and identified"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Vladimir M. Sasko "recovered and identified"
FindAGrave - 2Lt Stanley D Campbell (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Liet Stanley D. Campbell (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt Robert Henry Cameron (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Lieut Robert Henry Cameron (Arlington grave photos)
FindAGrave - Corp Carl A Drain (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Corl Carl A. Drain (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Vladimir M Sasko (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - CPT Vladimir M. Sasko (grave photo)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - C-47 Dakota 42-24215
Bruce Hoy Diary 11 November, 1980
"Tuesday, drove out to the airport at 8.00am and met the CIL‑HI team arriving from Lae. I gave them the appropriate export certificates covering the remains collected from P-38H 42-66562, A-20G 43-21416 and C-47 42-24215."
Thanks to Richard Leahy, Bruce Hoy and Brian Bennett for additional information.

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


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