Besley, Laura E., SSgt

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Last Rank
Staff Sergeant
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
99000-Basic Airman
Last AFSC Group
Special Identifiers
Primary Unit
1944-1945, 5th Air Force
Service Years
1942 - 1945
USAAFEnlisted Collar Insignia
Staff Sergeant

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Sgt D.L. Kimbrow (Skip) to remember Besley, Laura E., SSgt.

If you knew or served with this Airman and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Casualty Info
Home Town
Last Address
Shippenville, Pennsylvania

Casualty Date
May 15, 1945
Non Hostile- Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Land
New Guinea
World War II
Location of Interment
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific - Honolulu, Hawaii
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Section U Site 10

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World War II Fallen
  1945, World War II Fallen

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 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
Far East Air Forces5th Air Force
  1944-1945, Far East Air Forces
  1944-1945, 5th Air Force
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1944-1945 World War II
 My Aircraft/Missiles
C-47 Skytrain/Dakota  
  1944-1945, C-47 Skytrain/Dakota
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
SSgt. Laura Besley enlisted in the Womens Army Corps in August 1942 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  She was assigned to the WAC Detachment, Hq Squadron, Far East Air Service Command, 5th Air Force in Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea in December 1944.

She died of injuries she received in the crash of a C-47 "The Gremlin Special" that went down in what was then Dutch New Guinea during a site seeing ("navigational training") flight over Hidden Valley Shangri-La, Balim, New Guinea.  There were 24 Army and WAC passengers aboard the aircraft, 5 of whom survived the crash, initially.  Two WACS died subsequently, on 14 and 15 May respectively, the 3rd died inside the aircraft of burns. The 3 survivors were spotted on 17 May and supplies were air dropped to them.

The 19 deceased were buried at the site after paratroopers dropped in to help the survivors out. A glider strip was built, and the survivors were taken out on 25 June 1945.

Her remains were not recovered until 14 years later. 

She was interred on 29 May 1959 in National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, Plot: Section U Site 10.


Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 14697

Aircraft was a C-47A (tail number 42-23952) from the 39th Troop Carrier Squadron, 317th Troop Carrier Group, 5th Air Force, based at Hollandia Airdrome, Dutch New Guninea

Aircraft flew too low and was unable to escape the terrain, crashing when it hit a mountain in an upward angle. Most passengers and crew were killed in the crash and subsequent fire.

Col. Peter Prossen, Pilot (KIA)
Major George H. Nicholson, Co-Pilot (KIA)
SSgt Hilliard Norris, Engineer (KIA)
Pfc Melvin A. Mollberg, Assistant Engineer (KIA)
Pfc George R. Newcomer, Radioman (KIA)

T/Sgt Kenneth Decker (rescued)
Cpl Margaret J. Hastings (rescued)
1st Lt. John S. McColom (rescued)
1st Lt. Robert E. McCollom  (KIA)
Maj. Herman F. Antonini  (KIA)
Cpl Charles R. Miller (KIA)
Captain Louis E. Freyman (KIA)
Pfc Marian C. Gillis (KIA)
1st Lt. Lawrence F. Holding (KIA)
Major Phillip J. Dattilo (KIA)
Captain Herbert F. Good (DOW/KIA)
Pfc Mary M. Landau (KIA)
Sgt Belle G. Naimer  (KIA)
Cpl Melvyn A. Weber (KIA)
Pfc Alethia M. Fair  (KIA)
Sgt Helen G. Kent  (KIA)
Tec3 Marion W. McMonagle  (KIA)
Pfc Eleanor Hanna (died May 14, 1945)
SSgt Laura Besley  (died May 15, 1945)

Photo of the 3 Rescued survivors: (T/Sgt Kenneth Decker, Cpl Margaret J. Hastings and 1st Lt. John S. McColom)  Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 14697

"Number of WACS AmongVictims in Plane Crash," New Castle News, New Castle, Pennsylvania, 8 June 1945, pp. 1-2.
Cpl. Margaret Hastings, "Shangri-La Diary: No Premonition of Disaster Present at Gay Take-Off,"  San Antonio Light, San Antonio, Texas, 23 July 1945, page 6-A.;192376 (full details of the rescue)

Commonwealth of PennsylvaniaWWII Veterans Compensation File, 1950 by mother Sue E. Besley..
U.S. National Cemetery Control Form, DA 2122, Interred 13 May 1959.
Sutton-Ditz Museum, Clarion, Clarion County, Pennsylvania (artifacts: )

Mitchell Zuckoff, Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, Harper Collins, 2012.

Col. Edward T. Imparato, Rescue from Shangri-La, Turner Books, 997.
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