By Ryan Groube
THE tragic deaths of two US aircraft crews whose planes went down in the far north during World War II were marked at a moving memorial service at Mareeba Airport on Saturday.
Two memorial plaques, which have been mounted on two large rocks sourced from within the grounds of the airfield, were unveiled by US consulate general Niels Marquardt, Brigadier General John Doucette and Tablelands Regional Council Mayor Tom Gilmore.
During World War II Mareeba Airport played a significant role as a base for fighter and bomber aircraft operating from northern Australia.
One of the memorials to be created will be to mark the crash of a Flying Fortress, piloted by Major Dean C Hoevet.
The plane crashed in the ocean near Yorkey’s Knob, Cairns, on August 16, 1942, with all crew on board killed.
During the war, the airfield was commonly called “Hoevet Field” by serving Australian and American personnel based at Mareeba.
The other memorial marks the crash of the “Hoomalimali”, another Flying Fortress, that was taking off from the Mareeba airfield on September 14, 1942.
Brigadier General Doucette travelled from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to attend the ceremony and said the event showed how deep the ties between Australia and the US run.
“When I received the invitation to attend this event it truly warmed my heart,” he said.
“It is humbling to know that after all these years this group of people held these airmen in such high esteem.”
TRC Mayor Tom Gilmore said the day was an important event.
“It is incredible the sense of goodwill that remains some 60 years after the event,” he said.
“The day is a goodwill gesture that recognises the role the US played in the war-time effort in the Pacific.
“It is also important to record a history that may otherwise be lost.”
Ravenshoe police officer Michael Musumeci, who has a keen interest in World War II activities on the Tableland and in Cape York, initiated the memorials.
Mr Musumeci was charged with reading letters from the descendants of the men who were lost in both plane crashes, some of which reduced the 200 strong-crowd to tears.