2ndLt Beckwith was able to return. The C-47 crash-landed at about 1200 hours east of Fort Hertz, Burma. The left wing was on fire and the ship was washed out completely. Altitude of bail out unknown. Lt. Beckwith, SSgt. Nelson and the two Privates bailed out. All parachutes opened. It is unknown whether the C-47 exploded when it struck the ground. After landing, SSgt Nelson saw no other crew, dead or alive. Lt. Beckwith later verified the two Privates died. One was wounded while in his chute and the other was found dead on the ground (broken back) after bailing out. He examined the C-47 wreckage four days after the crash. Only fragments of the tail section and wings remained. 2ndLt Benson’s body was found in the wreckage. 1stLt Gibbins’ body was found in the wreckage, too. The bodies were buried by Burmese.
A note appended to the file states: “Lt Beckwith, pilot of C-47, No. 615, shot down 18 January, reached our forward troops. Aircraft is down 2 miles East of NT 66 23. 3 dead, 2 uncertain. Beckwith unhurt.
A statement by Capt. Donald G Prout, Asst. Operations Officer, said: On 19 January 1944 I went as a passenger on a B-25 to search for four missing planes, one photo ship and our three transports, numbers C-47 41-19476, C-47A 42-100615, and C-47A 42-100696. After finding no trace of the photo ship we proceeded to the area where reports indicated our transports may be located. One village had a message saying a plan was six miles in the direction indicated by an arrow. We looked over the area but found no trace of any of the ships. We were forced to return due to a lack of fuel of escorting fighters.
A declassified telegram in the file said: “FT HERTZ AREA CIPHER 0-1475 23RD JANUARY PLANE FOUND NEAR SHATANCA N Y 7350 EIGHT OCCUPANTS KILLED.”
Addendum to the file:
TWO GAS TANKS FOUND NEAR VILLAGE ARE BEING BROUGHT IN. SIX TRANSPORTS ERE SAID TO BE ESCORTED BY OUR 9 FIGHTERS. SALVAGE PARTY TO NY 6851 WRECKAGE IS ACCOMPANIED BY AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER DISPATCHED BY AREA E AGENT. OBTAINING PHOTOS AND AIDING IDENTIFICATION WERE HIS INSTRUCTIONS. BODIES WILL BE BURIED AT CRASH LOCATION WILL FOLLOW SAME PROCEDURE AT ANY OTHER WRECKS.”
Radiogram received 23 January 1944 from Ft Hertz (as above – telegram). Only the deceased will be described herein.
BENSON, HOWARD ROBERT, Second Lieutenant, # 0-745270, USAAF
Howard R. Benson was born 30 November 1920 in California to Elmer Jarvis Benson (1886-1951) and Elizabeth Ella (Bassett) Benson (1891-1991). Living with them in 1940 was his maternal grandmother, Lucy Ella (Chambers) Bassett (1854-1943), widow of Charles Marion Bassett (1848-1923), a U.S. Army (Union) Civil War soldier – Private, 177th Ohio Infantry Regiment; 180th Ohio Infantry Regiment - Corporal. His father was a retail appliance salesman in 1940.