Ladies & Gentlemen
As you are aware - the unveiling of the C-47 Memorial was part of our cities 4 day VP60 Commemorations (60th Anniversary of the end of WW2 in the Pacific region).
What a great program it was - with no one disappointed with what was on offer.
We had the great pleasure of hosting Mrs Prudy Drew from Wenatchee, Washington State. Be assured Prudy was a very capable ambassador for your country and cause.
Amazingly - my good friend Charles Gailey (CK) located the Wilson Family only some 2 weeks prior, and thru that I made contact with Prudy (niece of C-47 pilot H Gene Wilson) and on hearing what I was about, she made some very hurried plans and arrived in Townsville on Thursday 11/08 in time for the Commemorations to begin (Fri 12th).
On Saturday morning we motored out to the C-47 crash site on Cleveland Bay and held a simple Memorial Service for the 27 casualties of this disaster.
The Service was fittingly conducted by a Salvation Army Chaplin (Sgt My Bob Down) and as each name was read out, we cast 27 roses into the water in remembrance of each victim.
We were joined in this process by another group who were commemoration the crash of a RAAF Catalina that happened exactly 1 month after the C-47 incident. So they assisted myself and Prudy as we did with their similar process.
Saturday afternoon saw a large street parade and sky show/fireworks event, held along our city Strand - waterfront. An estimated 70,000 turned out for this special occassion which included a spectacular RAAF F1-11 - 'dump and burn', just after sun set.
The street Parade was led by the small visiting US & PNG contingent. The uniformed gentleman is Lt Col Dan De Young (Ret) -a US WW2 PNG Campaign Veteran. Dan also attended Townsville's VP50 Celebrations in 1995. Prudy can just be seen - between and slightly behind the US & PNG flag bearers. She was asked to carry the US flag - however the harness couldn't be shortened enough to fit her small stature.
Sunday 14th at 10.30am was the big event. With an estimated 200 local, national, and international visitors and Veterans assembled a top of Kissing Point was a sight to behold. The Service was conducted by a RAAF Chaplin and supported by the Townsville based 1 RAR Army Band & the US 5th Air Force Band and Colour Party contingent.
The assembled were addressed by the CO of the Townsville Army, Brig Michael Fairweather, Lt General Bruce Wright (CO US 5th Air force Japan), Mayor of Townsville City, Tony Mooney and Lt Col Dan De Young.
It was a combined Ceremony - firstly commemorating the WW2 (and onwards) Aust/US Alliance and its relationship to Townsville past and present, followed by the unveiling of the C-47 Memorial Plaque. The Plaque is also two fold - with one side remembering those who gave their lives in the C-47 disaster and the other side - a pictorial collage representing/remembering the local WW2 US Military Association with our City. Play and Work are captured in the image selection - taken from Mr Arch Farley's WW2 photographic collection. Arch came to Townsville with the US Air Force in 1942 and remained stationed in Townsville as their official Military Photographer. He married a Townsville lady and after a short return to the US - came back and settled in Townsville where he carried on in private business as a professional photographer.
Prudy was invited to assist the Mayor and LT General Wright in the unveiling - as a representative of all the families of those taken in the C-47 crash. She also laid a wreath at the base of the adjacent official US 5th Air Force Memorial - again on behalf of those families. Prudy was assisted in this by 2 high school students - who I had worked with last year.
Mr Col Benson from Mackay (south of Townsville) attended to represent the 317th TCG, and Mr Scott Roby represented the 500th BG, along with myself deputising for the 347th FG - jointly laid wreaths in memory of the 3 Sqdns involved in the crash.
Col is the man behind the Memorial and on going connection - commemorating another 317th TCG B-17 crash - near Mackay - with the loss of 40 lives. Col has been my roll model for much of what I set out to achieve with this new Townsville Memorial. Scott is the great nephew of Mr Tal Epps - from the 500th BS - and like myself - made an Hounory Life Member of their fine Association.
Sunday night - Prudy was able to attend a private dinner hosted by our Mayor - to farewell the US 5th Air Force Contingent. At this function she was able to read and present a letter prepared by Vince Korbath - on behalf of the 317th TCG Association, a very nice letter commending the local City Fathers for their roll in finally & formally commemorating their men taken in the C-47 crash all those years past.
On Monday 15th (Victory Day Anv) as part of a re-enactment of Victory being announced in Townsville in 1945, all the visiting Veterans gathered to receive a Certificate from the City - to acknowledge their attendance - and to those who came to represent departed love ones. Prudy was presented with one such Certificate - in memory of her late Uncle Gene. Again, be assured you were all very ably represented by Prudy - who did a fantastic job, and got her photo in our daily news paper on numerous occasions during her stay.
It was indeed a pleasure and an honour to host such a lady.
It was also a great pleasure to finally see the fruits of my efforts - and be able to have brought to fruition a long over due Memorial to those who you knew and loved.
And I must thank you all for you great assistance over the past 3 years - without you sharing your experiences, you personal hardships and your time - this couldn't have happened. Particually - if it wasn't for the dedicaton and hard work of Charles G on the 'other side'- I wouldn't be making this contact today. Thanks CK - and I hope we can eventually make contact with more and more relatives over time.
I have to admit - I'm going to have a bit of a break - before moving on with this project - and sorting my huge amount of info - none the least is sorting out just who we now have on board - which I think is relatives located for some 15 of the 27, C-47 victims.
Peter R Murray
24 Pankina Street
Ph: (07) 47745355
Peter Murray & Scott Roby
Scott is Tal Epps nephew
Scott Roby keeping the memory alive
The 2 lads with the Mayor & Prudy Drew - are 2 of the School Group
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