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  C-47A-30-DK Datoka Serial Number A65-56 Call Sign VH-CIJ
33 Squadron

Former Assignments
38 Squadron

Pilot  F/Lt Eric Clarence Beer, RAAF 253615 (MIA / KIA) Boort, Victoria
Crew  F/Lt John Francis Mulcahy, RAAF 403946 (MIA / KIA) Marrickville, NSW
Crew  F/Sgt Francis Xavier Sullivan, RAAF 449405 (MIA / KIA) Coburg, VIC
Passenger  Sgt Keith Hugh Devenish, RAAF 17286 (MIA / KIA) South Perth, WA
Passenger  AC1 Albert John Haslam, RAAF 159583 (MIA / KIA) Richmond. VIC
Passenger  Cpl Neil Stuart Mackay, RAAF 139076 (MIA / KIA) Grange, QLD
Passenger  LAC William Douglas Goldie Stevens, RAAF 418569 (MIA / KIA) Ascot Vale, VIC
Passenger  Cpl Michael Francis Moran, RAAF 118118 (MIA / KIA) Geelong, VIC
Passenger  Sgt Wesley Greg Doran, RAAF 50353 (MIA / KIA) Hampton, VIC
Passenger   F/O William Patrick Reedman, RAAF 435578 (MIA / KIA) Rockhampton, QLD
Passenger  F/Sgt James Neville Davis, RAAF 433345 (MIA / KIA) Nambucca Heads, NSW
Passenger  F/Sgt Kevin Francis Rutherford, RAAF 433825 (MIA / KIA) Haberfield, NSW
Passenger  F/Lt William John Gordon, RAAF 419569 (MIA / KIA) Gawler, SA
Passenger  Cpl Eastall Lochlan Eastall, RAAF 88705 (MIA / KIA) Launceston, Tasmania
Passenger  LAC Albert Grant Walton, RAAF 151902 (MIA / KIA) Kelvin Grove, QLD
Passenger  LAC Percy Badon Healy, RAAF 162787 (MIA / KIA) Orange, NSW
Passenger  Cook Gordon Liddell, RAN 5058 (MIA / KIA) Rockhampton, QLD
Passenger  Lt Noel Thomas Williams, AIF QX46941 ANGAU (MIA / KIA) Atherton, QLD
Passenger  Spr Keith Smith, AIF VX65318 (MIA / KIA) Clifton Hill, QLD

Crashed  September 11, 1945

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas. Constructors Number 25365. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-47A-30-DK Dakota serial number 43-48104. Shipped overseas to Australia as part of lend-lease.

Wartime History
During July 1944, assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Dakota A65-56. Assigned to 38 Squadron. Later, assigned to 33 Squadron. Assigned Call Sign VH-CIJ. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On September 11, 1945 took off from Gurney Field at 10:15am on a courier flight bound for for Dobodura Airfield. Aboard was the crew of three plus sixteen passengers.

Four of the passengers were the crew of a 6 Squadron Beaufort (FSgt Davis, FSgt Kevin Rutherford, F/O Reedman and F/O Gordon). Also aboard was a RAAF entertainment group including violinist Cpl Mackay and cellist AC1 Haslam and piano player Sgt Devenish. ANGAU officer Lt. Williams, a former Commonwealth Bank employee from Cairns was carrying a payroll of £2000 ($500,000 AU$ today) in paper currency to pay native labour.

Minutes after taking off, the plane was engulfed by a tropical downpour. At 10:21am, the pilot radioed to the tower he was returning and asked to be "homed". That was the last anyone ever heard of the aircraft. Weather closed in around strip and aircraft apparently crashed into sea. When this Dakota failed to arrive it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

That day, aerial and boat searches of the area found nothing. From the air, several 6 Squadron Beaufort and 33 Squadron Dakota A65-36 searched without results. A RAAF crash boat searched the sea area, but also found nothing.

The next day, a village constable from Wagga Wagga traveling by canoe found two life jackets, cushions and oil floating on the surface of the water at Milne Bay.

Additional searches were made by dragging an anchor on the bottom to snag any wreckage and even dynamite exploded in hopes of dislodging more wreckage. But, no additional wreckage was found.

The crew is memorialized at Bomana Cemetery on the Port Moresby Memorial on panels 1, 9 & 10. Liddell is memorialized at the Plymouth Naval Memorial on panel 95, column 3.

During late 2011, Rod Pearce of MV Barbarian II with Norwegian diver Kasper Sommer and Danish diver Roy Torgerson found aircraft wreckage believed to be this aircraft underwater off on the southwest corner of Milne Bay, between Gumini River and Gamadoda at roughly 20-30m depth in murky water.

The wreckage includes the wings, engines, undercarriage and tail section. The divers recovered one of the propellers, tail wheel tire, cockpit control quadrant and cables. No remains were observed during the initial dives, nor a positive identification of the aircraft from a dataplate or serial number stencil.

During early 2012, the aircraft was reported by Rod Pearce to the RAAF Searcher Team as a potential MIA site.

PNG Museum aircraft status card by Bruce Hoy incorrectly lists the crew as pilot: Gordon, co-pilot: Reedman, crew: Neville & Rutherford
ADF Serials - Dakota A65-56 incorrectly lists date of crash as September 12, 1945
RAAFDB - Dakota A65-56
The Sydney Morning Herald "Search is on for WWII wreckage" by Matthew Benns Feb 17, 2008
The Canberra Times "Flight of Doom Glimmer of hope for long-lost souls" by Robert Piper March 7, 2012 pp 3-5
Thanks to Daniel Leahy, Robert Piper and Rod Pearce for additional information

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


Tech Info

19 Missing

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