US tries to locate remains of pilot of plane that crashed 77 years ago in Lampang
The acting US ambassador to Thailand on Thursday witnessed an ongoing operation to locate a US military plane that crashed in Lampang province 77 years ago to try to find its missing pilot.
Charge d'Affaires Michael Heath, the acting US ambassador, visited Ban Mae Kua village in Tambon Mae Kua in the Sobprap district of Lampang where a team of nine specialists from the US Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) are working with local residents to dig a suspected crash site.
The nine DPAA specialists were sent from Hawaii to work with the villagers to try to locate a P-38 plane after the DPAA received tips that three of its military planes, which went missing during World War II, might have crashed in the North of Thailand.
The search operation in Ban Mae Kua began after the US received tips that a P-38 plane had crashed in a paddy field in front of the village about 77 years ago.
Heath led a delegation of Thai reporters and Thai government representatives to witness the digging site.
The delegation was received by Major Brian W Smith, head of the DPAA search team.
Smith said the team had got tips that convinced them the spot was the crash site of the P-38 plane of the US Air Force.
He said a 98-year-old woman remembered the day the plane crashed. She was 21 years old at the time.
Local villagers also informed the team that some parts of the plane were found at the spot but they were not sure whether the villagers had cremated or buried the body of the pilot 77 years ago.
Smith said the US government was receiving full support from the villagers for the search operation. The owner of the paddy field also allowed the DPAA team to set up a base and to dig on the land.
The DPAA team hired 30 villagers to help in the digging. Smith said a week after the digging started, that the team had found some parts of the P-38 plane. A part carried wordings that it was made in America but the team was not certain which part of the plane it belonged to.
Heath said although more than 70 years had passed, the US government would not stop its mission to locate all missing troops to try to find and bring them back home.
The acting ambassador said the search operation signified the good ties and cooperation between Thailand the US.
“I would like to thank the community, local officials and the Thai government on behalf of the US and American people for helping us carry out an important duty and to honour the promise our country has made,” Heath said.
He said some 81,600 US troops are still listed as missing in action since World War II and the US government would do its best to try to locate them and bring them back home.
“More importantly, this was the first operation in Thailand since 2007. In July 2018, the DPAA received information that three US planes that went missing during the World War II were found in the North of Thailand,” Heath said.
He said the information led to the research by historians and US and Thai volunteers, who also received information from eyewitnesses, and eventually led to the digging operation.