BERUAS: Experts are confident that they can excavate and return the remains of the three crew members of the downed World War II Douglas Dakota C-47B aircraft that crashed at the Bubu Forest Reserve here in 1945.
Numerous materials from the crash site have been found and would be analysed, said the US Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA)’s archaeologist Dr Owen O’Leary.
“We will have to wait for confirmation from forensic analysis. It was a successful dig.
“It’ll take time before we can confirm anything. We are very hopeful and we have a good chance of finding the remains,” he said, adding that they were mostly looking for three things – military-issued life support items; biological materials like teeth and bones and personal belongings like watches or gear.
“The materials that were screened will be handed over to the Malaysian Defence Ministry, Health Ministry and Heritage Department to be analysed first before being brought back to the United States,” said Dr O’Leary.
The aircraft, with three crew members, crashed in the Bubu Forest Reserve on Nov 17, 1945, while en route from Singapore to Penang to deliver food.
The three crew members were identified as Flight Officer Judson Baskett, Flight Assistant William Myers and Communications Officer Donald Jones.
Dr O’Leary, who specialises in WWII plane crashes, said the aircraft broke apart as it fell through trees in the jungle.
“The cockpit of the aircraft was destroyed during the crash.
“Several of its parts, including the engines, fuselage, wings and the tail part of the aircraft were scattered all within a 190sq m-size area,” he told journalists during a media visit to the Op Gangga excavation site in the forest reserve on Monday.
“Buckets of soil were taken up to a screening station to filter for bones, aircraft parts or personal belongings,” he added.
Capt Gregory Lynch, who leads the US team of about 11 personnel at the site, said the DPAA was determined to bring home the remains and personal belongings, if any, to the respective families.
“These are what matter the most. We are not interested in recovering the wreckage,” he said.
Royal Malaysian Armed Forces odontology forensic experts Brig-Jen Datuk Dr Mohd Ilham Haron said Op Gangga, which began in July was expected to be wrapped up by the end of this month.
“We hope that by November, we will have some positive results so that a handover ceremony between the US President and our Prime Minister could be held,” he said.
“The remains of the aircraft are expected to be excavated later and moved to the Armed Forces Museum in Port Dickson.”
About 110 personnel, including the DPAA, Royal Malaysian Army, Universiti Sains Malaysia archaeology department and the Forestry Department, are involved in Op Gangga.