Dakota VT-CLA

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VT-CLA
The tail of VT-CLA, after the crash
Incident summary
Date 29 July 1947
Summary shoot down by fighter aircraft
Site Ngoto, Bantul
Passengers 6
Crew 3
Fatalities 8
Survivors 1
Aircraft type Douglas C-47B
Registration VT-CLA
Flight origin Singapore
Destination Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Dakota VT-CLA was a Douglas C-47 Skytrain carrying medical supplies to the national government of Indonesia at Yogyakarta on 29 July 1947.

By the middle of the Indonesian National Revolution (1945–1949), the newly proclaimed republic was put on the defensive by returning Dutch forces. Several Indonesians, including Deputy Commodores Agustinus Adisucipto and Abdul Rahman Saleh, were tasked to deliver medical supplies from Malaya. Near the completion of the mission, as their aircraft – chartered from an Indian businessman and flown by an Australian pilot – approached the airfield at Maguwo, Yogyakarta, two Dutch Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks flew in and shot the aircraft down over Ngoto, Bantul. Only one person survived the crash.

Although the Dutch initially denied complicity, investigation showed that the Kittyhawks had caused the crash; the Dutch later made restitution to India. On 1 March 1948 a monument to the aircraft was built in Ngoto. Since 1979, the Indonesian Air Force has celebrated a Service Day (Hari Bakti) in commemoration of the crash and in remembrance of the deaths.

Background[edit]

On 17 August 1945, President of Indonesia Sukarno proclaimed the nation's independence; this was after more than three hundred years of being a colony of the Netherlands and a three year occupation by the Empire of Japan.[1] The nascent country needed a defence force to protect it from a perceived invasion from the Dutch, seeking to reclaim the archipelago. The first such defence force, known as the People's Security People's Safety Body (Badan Keamanan Rakjat, or BKR), was formed on 23 August but tasked with police work. On 5 October of that year the government formed a national military, including provisions for an air force.[2][3] Allied Dutch and British forces had already landed on the main island of Java by that time, but were mainly concerned with the repatriation of former prisoners of war; however, it was known that the Dutch would soon attempt to retake the former colony.[4]

The first pilot in this new air force was Deputy Commodore Agustinus Adisucipto, who had flown the first Indonesian aircraft, a Yokosuka K5Y (known locally as a Cureng) left by the Japanese empire.[2] Another commodore, Abdul Rahman Saleh, established the Air Force Technical School in Malang, East Java.[5] Both officers were involved in the crash of Dakota VT-CLA.[6]

Flight[edit]

A replica of the aircraft's tail, which survived the crash

By July 1947 the Dutch forces, in an attempt to retake the former Indies, had occupied most major cities in Java and Sumatra, leaving the Indonesian republic on the defensive.[7] Under orders from Sukarno, Adisucipto and Saleh chartered a Douglas C-47B-20-DK from Bijoyanda Patnaik, an Indian national and owner of Kalinga Airlines, to transport medical supplies donated by the Red Cross of Malaya to the Red Cross of Indonesia.[6][8][9] The flight was approved by both British and Dutch forces, who guaranteed a safe flight. The night before the flight's departure, Malayan radio broadcast that a flight with the registration number VT-CLA would be carrying medical supplies to Yogyakarta.[10]

The flight departed Singapore, piloted by Alexander Noel Constantine, at 1:00 a.m. West Indonesian Time (UTC+7) for Maguwo, the airfield at Yogyakarta.[6] That morning, as the aircraft approached Yogyakarta, the Indonesian air force (with "Willow" biplanes and a "Sonia" divebomber[11]) bombed Dutch strongholds in Semarang, Salatiga and Ambarawa. This infuriated the Dutch.[2]

After three hours of flight, Dakota VT-CLA arrived near Maguwo. After the landing gear descended, two Dutch P-40 Kittyhawks appeared and shot at the aircraft. After bullets destroyed the left engine, the aircraft went into a dive, first crashing into a tree then into paddy fields in Ngoto, Bantul.[6] Only its tail remained in one piece.[10]

Aftermath[edit]

Of the nine passengers and crew, seven died on impact. Two others, the pilot's wife Beryl and Abdulgani Handonotjokro, were rushed to Bethesda Hospital in the city. Beryl Constantine succumbed to her wounds at the hospital, while Handonotjokro survived.[12] After a memorial service at Tugu Hotel, which had been used as a temporary barracks for the air force, Adisucipto and Saleh were buried at Kuncen Cemetery in Yogyakarta, while Adi Soemarmo Wirjokusumo was buried in Kusumanegara Heroes' Cemetery.[12]

The Dutch initially rejected that the Kittyhawks were involved in the crash, stating that the plane seemed to have crashed into something. However, Indonesian witnesses on the ground reported that the Kittyhawks had come from the viewer's right of the Dakota and shot at it. An inspection of Wirjokusumo's body, when it was recovered, confirmed that he had been shot.[12] They later denied knowledge of the flight and said that it had not had Red Cross markings.[9] After India protested the incident, the Dutch government sent a Dakota C-47A along with financial restitution.[13]

Legacy[edit]

Memorial to the crash, in Ngoto

On 1 March 1948, a monument to the crash was built in Ngoto.[14] Both Adisucipto and Saleh were declared National Heroes of Indonesia in 1974.[15] In 2000, Adisucipto and Saleh were moved from their initial burial spots to the monument, where they are buried together with their wives.[2]

Since 1979, the Indonesian Air Force has celebrated a Service Day (Hari Bakti) in commemoration of the crash and in remembrance of the deaths, based on Decision of the Indonesian Air Force Commander Number 133/VII/1976.[16]

Casualties[edit]

Eight persons died when Dakota VT-CLA was shot down.[6][17] including:

References[edit]

Footnotes
Bibliography