Thursday, May 17, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday - Vilas Parker's Missing Air Crew Report

Missing Air Crew Report 4882
Cropping of crew list from MACR 4882
Last fall I purchased the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) that pertained to my 2nd (oops) 1st cousin (twice removed), Vilas Parker. The twice removed part just means that he was my grandfather's first cousin. I wrote about his loss in World War II in this article from August 2010. Just to recap, Vilas was a Staff Sergeant attached to Merrill's Marauders. He was killed, along with 6 others, on May 22, 1944 when the C-47 he was on crashed in bad weather in the Kachin Hills, a mountainous area in a remote part of Burma. The aircraft was found accidentally in 1987 and some remains of the crew were returned to family in the US.

The story is interesting to me in several respects. First is the family connection to the famous Merrill's Marauders, which was a special forces unit during World War II and is connected to today's US Army Rangers. The story of the aircraft being found over 40 years later is also amazing to me. Another twist of fate is that the aircraft was lost on May 22, 1944, which was also Vilas's birthday.
C47 releases rations near Myitkyina
A C-47 drops rations in Burma in 1944
The actual transaction to get the document went very poorly. I decided to pay $10 and go through the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to receive scanned microfilm on CD. All I had was the MACR number, which was 4882. I had to bounce this number off the microfilm catalog M-1380. MACR 4882 was listed as being on microfilm number 1742. Fiche 1742 was supposed to contain MACR 4880-4882, so I ordered it. Unfortunately, I received fiche number 576 that included MACR 1740-1742. Apparently there was some confusion between the MACR 1742 and fiche #1742. I followed the instructions for ordering and I'm pretty sure I did it correctly, so I think the problem was on their end. NARA apparently doesn't staff their phones very well and they don't monitor or respond to e-mails. I spent hours on hold and sent several e-mails requesting clarification, but I received no responses and never got someone to pick up the phone. I sent a couple requests via their web inquiry form and that was finally what it took to get a response. After about a month, I finally received MACR 4882, but I received a printed version rather than the digitized records on CD that I ordered. Honestly I felt lucky to receive anything. I'm glad I got the documents, but I doubt I will be ordering too many more documents from NARA.

Click read more to see the documents I received...

The missing Air Crew Report tells the story of the loss of the aircraft. They departed Dinjan, Assam, India on a 140 degree heading, southeast bound for Myitkyina, Burma on an air resupply mission aboard a C-47, serial number 41-38709. 2nd Lt. Earnest R. Wilson was the pilot, flight officer Andrew Malligo was the copilot and Sgt. Allen W. Beeler was the radio operator. The flight also included four drop crew members, S/Sgt Vilas D. Parker, Pfc Howard K. Moss, Pfc Benjamin J. Moss and Pfc Walter B. Owensby. The conditions at the time of the accident were instrument flight rules with ceiling zero and visibility zero, so the weather was very bad. The C-47 was last contacted by radio was on May 22, 1944 at 0716 India Standard Time by S/Sgt William R. Chattin. The aircraft was said to be at position N26°06' E096°46' in the Kachin Hills of northern Burma. Search and rescue was attempted, but without success. The Marauders had only taken Myitkyina airfield a few days earlier on May 17th, 1944.

You can click through to Flickr and see enlarged versions of these documents.
Missing Air Crew Report 4882
Missing Air Crew Report 4882
Missing Air Crew Report 4882
Crew List with next of kin

Missing Air Crew Report 4882
Cover letter

View Larger Map
A map of northern Burma showing the approximate crash location, indicated by a green arrow.

Updated to fix 2nd cousin error. He was the 1st cousin of my grandfather, which makes him my 1st cousin but twice removed. Sorry about that.