An expedition by the US department of defence to recover remains of over 55 airmen from a World War II plane crash in Tripura in May has been postponed, with India reportedly not yet ready to give the go-ahead.
Sixty-seven years after the C47 43-48308 transport plane went missing, a team from the department’s Joint POW/MIA (Prisoners of War/Missing in Action) Accounting Command was reportedly planning to visit Tripura to recover the remains of US soldiers and return them to American soil for burial. The transport plane went missing on May 17, 1946 during a flight from Rangoon to Calcutta. Along with a three-member flight crew, it was carrying eight US military investigators and unusually, remains of 47 soldiers who had died as POWs of the Japanese.
But, as the families of the missing airmen were hoping to finally get a sense of closure, they received a notice from the US defence department that the recovery operations had been postponed indefinitely. “Recovery operations in India have been postponed until further notice from the Government of India,” said W Montague Winfield, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for POW/MIA Affairs. “We will continue to work with the Indians in hopes of conducting recovery operations there in the near future,” he said.
As per the US official, there are around “400 unaccounted-for US service members in India as a result of air crashes in World War II”.
According to official sources, the US side had been pushing for the expedition to reach Tripura by a specific date, but since arrangements by Indian authorities were not finished, the expedition was not given the green signal.
Sources said the expedition has only been postponed till a new date is fixed, and can take place this year depending on local conditions. The US first made a request to restart the recovery missions that had been suspended in 2009, during the political-military dialogue in April, 2012. At that time, India had said it was looking into the “possibility of agreeing to the proposal”.
The palne crash site was first discovered in 2009 by Clayton Kuhles, founder and leader of MIA Recoveries.