Malaysian jungle adventurers solve WWII mysteries

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 00:25

Kuala Lumpur: They trek for days through
crocodile-infested swamps and up rain-lashed mountain jungles,
but the members of the Malaya Historical Group are not seeking
treasure or ancient artefacts. Instead, they`re after rusty
wreckage.

Over the past decade, the six amateur Malaysian military
historians have helped locate the confirmed or suspected crash
sites of 30 World War II aircraft, helping bring closure for
the families of more than 40 missing British and American air
crews.

Nearly 70 years after the end of the war, at least 100
British and American aircraft wrecks are believed scattered
across the jungles of India, Thailand and Malaysia, along with
the remains of their crews.

As well as the battles for the Pacific Islands, allied
forces waged war against Japanese forces whose regional
conquests included previously British-held Singapore and
Malaysia , known then as Malaya.

"What we do is to find whichever wrecks are in Malaysia
and help identify them so that relatives can get closure after
waiting for more than six decades," says the group`s leader
Shaharom Ahmad.

During the week, Shaharom, 37, is a technical engineer
with Malaysian state news agency Bernama.

But he and his fellow war buffs have carried out 40
weekend expeditions over the last decade, searching for the
wrecks of long-missing allied aircraft that crashed or were
shot down.

Such sites "are a crucial part of the story of the war in
the Pacific," said military historian Christopher McDermott,
who works for the US Joint Prisoner of War/Missing In Action
Accounting Command (JPAC).

He said at least 550 Americans went missing over the
jungles and seas of Southeast Asia as a result of air raids,
patrols, and cargo and reconnaissance missions.

Finding crash sites, he adds, can provide "positive
identification for the return of remains to the families of
the missing service members."

Shaharom says the group`s research into American and
British archives indicate the wrecks of at least 15 to 20
allied aircraft are still yet to be examined in Malaysia.

Seven of the sites have been discovered so far, but the
whereabouts of the others are not yet known.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 00:25

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