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  Douglas C-39 Serial Number 38-505 Tail VHCCA
374th TCG
21st TCS

Pilot  Lt O'Neill, USAAF
Crew  Sgt Rolfe M. Smith (KIA / BR) MN
Passenger  F/Lt Duncan Matheson, RAAF 2161 (KIA / BR)
Passenger  LAC James Emanuel Skillen, RAAF 2669 (KIA / BR)

Crashed  May 25, 1942

Aircraft History
Built by Douglas as a DC-2-243 with Constructor's Number 2062, intended for the U. S. Army Air Corps. Assigned Radio Callsign VH-CCA.

Mission History
On May 25, 1942 crashed soon after take off from Alice Springs on a flight bound for Batchelor Field. All aboard were killed during the crash.

According to F/Lt Matheson's Casualty File:
"The pilot of the aircraft had planned to take off at 0100 hrs on Monday 25th May, but owing to bad weather and visibility, he postponed his start till 0340 hrs. The machine eventually took off at 0355 hrs and banked away to the north-east of the drome. At 0357 hrs the machine crashed and immediately burst into flames. The cased incendiary ammunition which was being transported to Batchelor, exploded and continued exploding for approximately three hours after the crash, thus making it impossible to attempt any salvage. On impact with the ground the cargo and passengers were flung forward to the nose of the machine and it was from that position that the bodies were recovered. The bodies were burnt beyond recognition with one exception, Sgt Rolfe M Smith, USAFIA. The identification discs of No 2669 LAC Skillen were found in the wreckage, but no trace of identity discs for F/Lt D Matheson could be found. A field service cap belonging to F/Lt D Matheson was found approximately 20 yards from the machine. All other items of equipment and clothing carried by the above RAAF personnel were destroyed by fire".

Matheson and Skillen are buried at Alice Springs Cemetery.

Smith is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery at plot C BLO, 4426. He also has a memorial marker at Ono United Methodist Church Cemetery in Salem, WI.

F/Lt Duncan Matheson's RAAF Casualty File (NAA: A705, 163/44/143)
Australia at War - Crash of a Douglas C-39 North East of Alice Springs on 25 May 1942
RAAFDB - C-39 38-505
FindAGrave - Rolfe Maxwell Smith (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Rolfe Maxwell Smith (memorial marker)
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for his assistance with this profile

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018


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