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MIA plane traced in Gasmata
Post Courier July 1, 2008 [ Read Online ]

AN Australian bomber, shot down by the Japanese in a remote region of Papua New Guinea during World War II, has been found, 66 years later.

A missionary found the Hudson bomber last month and a RAAF team yesterday confirmed it was plane A16-126, lost with four crew on February 11, 1942.

Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon said A16-126 was part of a formation of three bombers which attacked Japanese shipping at Gasmata harbour in West New Britain.

"Over the target, the RAAF bombers were intercepted by Japanese fighters which had scrambled from Gasmata airfield," Mr Snowdon said in a statement. "A16-126 was listed as 'lost by enemy action'."

Four men were lost with the aircraft — Flying Officer Graham Ian Gibson, Pilot Officer Frank Leslie Oliver Thorn, Sergeant Barton Irving Coutie, and Sergeant Arthur Edward Quail. Last month, missionary Mark Reichman spotted the wreckage in thick jungle on a ridge inland from the town of Gasmata. A RAAF team was sent to investigate and found the bomber in several large pieces, with the cockpit upside down and partially buried in mud.

Bullet holes were found in the tail section and cannon shells were still in their original clips, but no bombs were found.

The air force will now begin planning a full recovery operation, with forensic specialists to search for any trace of human remains and personal artefacts.

"It is to be hoped this investigation will finally account for these four lost brave airmen," Mr Snowdon said.

Officials have contacted families of three of the four crew members but have yet to locate relatives of Sergeant Quail, who was from the Queensland town of Biloela.

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