18 SEPTEMBER 1945
CRASH OF A C-47 DAKOTA
ON SIDE OF MOUNT CARSTENS,
IN THE NASSAU RANGE, WEST IRIAN
ON A FLIGHT BETWEEN BIAK AND HORN ISLAND
At 6.00am on 18 September 1945, RAAF C-47 Dakota, A65-61, VH-CUT, of 38 Squadron RAAF, took off from Wama Airfield on Moratai in New Guinea. It arrived at Mokmer airfield on Biak Island at 10.30am. The Dakota then took off in clear weather at 11.15am enroute to Townsville via Horn Island. Normal procedure for aircraft departing from Biak was to radio in 15 minutes after take-off and then again when they had reached their cruising height. A65-61 did not make its first 15 minutes radio call and totally disappeared along with its 28 occupants. No trace was found during searches in New Guinea. It was thought that it would not have reached the Australian mainland.
Penny Stibbard told me that her uncle, Noel Royce Stibbard, was on this flight when it disappeared in Papua New Guinea. Penny told me that the aircraft wreckage was found in 1968.
On 16 October 1968, an American Missionary, Jerry Reeder, was flying his aircraft across the Nassau Range in West Irian at 14,500 feet when he saw a flash of light below him. He flew down lower to discover the wreckage of a large silvery aircraft on the side of Mount Carstens. In mid 1970, Jerry Reeder returned with two American timbermen from the D.E. Lowe Corporation in a Bell Ranger helicopter and landed near the wreckage.
They were able to determine that it was a WW2 Dakota military aircraft. The camouflage had faded from the metal fuselage but they were able to find the letters "CUT" in faint yellow letters on the tail of the wrecked aircraft. They found many scattered human bones and a half-burnt women's shoe near the wreckage.
The Dakota had hit the side of the valley with one of its wingtips which then slewed the aircraft into the 3,000 feet high mountain side. It then fell to the valley below and caught fire. Although in a valley, it was located at a spot 13,500 feet above sea level.
28 military personnel were killed in this crash:-
Warrant Officer A.J. Hunter of Swansea
Warrant Officer A.C. Hughes, 24 yrs of Warialda
Warrant Officer E. Wilkinson, 33 yrs of Ipswich, Qld
Flight Sergeant K.R. Wiles, 24 yrs of Footscray, Vic
Flight Sergeant A.G. Sawrey, 22 yrs of Concord
Sergeant F.L.H. Blackmore, 28 yrs
Sister Marie Eileen Craig, RAAF Nursing Sister, 33 yrs of Drummoyne
Flying Officer Noel Royce Stibbard, 24 yrs of Wollongong
Warrant Officer A. Campbell, 27 yrs of Manning River
Leading Aircraftsman W.R. Dunderdale, 19 yrs of Oxley, Qld
Private Leonard Thomas Oakley, 21 yrs, of 2/31 Australian Infantry Battalion
Private Laurie Anthony Coombe, 35 yrs
Private Ian Scott McDowall, 23 yrs
Trooper George Phillip Duffy, 23 yrs
Private John McAlorum, 20 yrs
Trooper Ronald Leslie Mathieson, 20 yrs
Private Arthur Trevor Jorgenson, 20 yrs, of 2/31 Australian Infantry Battalion
Private Keith John Bowden, 22 yrs
Trooper Frederick Joseph Ireland, 23 yrs
Private James Ivan Tindall, 32 yrs
Corporal George John Welch, 34 yrs
Private Mervyn John Ford, 25 yrs, of 2/31 Australian Infantry Battalion
Sergeant Arthur John Hyde, 37 yrs
Private Donald William Smith, 22 yrs, of 2/31 Australian Infantry Battalion
Private Ian Thomas Lawler Ray, 19 yrs, of 2/31 Australian Infantry Battalion
Sapper James Francis McDougall, 25 yrs
Sapper John Matthews, 22 yrs
Gunner Trevor Eiszelle, 24 yrs
The safe route from Biak to Horn Island was to fly across Geelvink Bay and then across the narrow Vegelkop neck of land and down the west coast of New Guinea to Horn Island. It would appear that Dakota A65-61 flew the almost direct route to Horn Island across the main mountain range, where many of the peaks were above 16,000 feet, some covered in snow. It was located about 120 miles east of the Geelvink-Volgelkop Neck route. It is believed that the aircraft was flying north at the time of impact suggesting that it may have encountered clouds while flying in the high valley, and then decided to turn around to fly back out of the valley.
On 3 December 1970, the Australian military implemented Operation "Tropic Snow" to recover the remains of those killed in this tragic crash. Support aircraft that flew into Biak were three Hercules C-130's, two Iroquois, a Caribou and an Army Pilatus Porter.
After some delays due to bad weather, a RAAF Iroquois winched down two personnel to the crash site. They were winched out about 90 minutes later with the remains of the victims of this crash. The remains were taken to Port Moresby for identification.
The remains were buried in the Bomana Port Moresby War Cemetery with full military honours on 26 January 1971. The Pacific Island Regiment together with its Pipes and Drums took part in the moving ceremony, attended by service representatives and families of the deceased.
I'd like to thank Penny Stibbard for her assistance with this home page.
"Diary of WWII - North
Complied by Peter Nielsen
"Aircraft of the RAAF 1921- 71"
By Geoffrey Pentland & Peter Malone
"Last Flight of Dakota
by Bruce McMaugh, of 2/31 battalion
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 4 July 1999
This page last updated 31 August 2015