Malaysian jungle adventurers solve WWII mysteries
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Last Updated: Tuesday, February 07, 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.


First Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 00:25

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