Mayurbhanja: 26/7/17:As the country today observed with hype Vijay Divas paying glowing tributes to heroes of Kargil war, a cross-section of historians flanked by locals and school children today organized a memorial service of far-flung Rasgovindpur in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district for 14 airmen killed in air crash on July 26, 1945.
The crash that squeezed the lives of 14 airmen had occurred when the World War Two was at its peak. The memorial function was a flashback to the turbulent times of horrifying global battle then.
.War historian Anil Dhir, eminent Gandhian Aditya Patnaik the Staff of the Gandhi Eye Hospital at Rangamatia, locals including school children paid homage by laying wreath on the portraits of the airmen.
History has completely forgotten them. The tragic air crash was a major event in the per-independent Odisha. But it’s really deplorable there is no mention of a line in the pages of history books. We had made a chance discovery of the Rasgovindpur airstrip in 2011. Since then we have been organizing memorial service in memory of the airmen killed in the crash, said historian Anil Dhir.
Very few are aware of the fact that the crash of two aircrafts had resulted in the death of 14 airmen. On the 26th of July 1945 two British Royal Air Force B-24 Liberator four-engine bombers, EW225 and EW247, collided at low altitude. The aircrafts were based at the Amarda Road airfield and were part of a six-plane contingent from the Air Fighting Training Unit engaged in a formation flying exercise. Fourteen airmen – the crews of the two aircraft died in the crash. They belonged to six different nations : America, Britain, Netherlands, Canada, Australia and India.
The Rasgovindpur Airstrip, (as it is known today) has a short but secret illustrious history which has never been made public. It had the longest runway in Asia, more than 3.5 km long. The total runways, taxiways, aprons, etc. were more than 60 km. Today, when one looks at the silent runway lying mostly vacant apart from a few odd cows grazing, one would find it difficult to associate the Airport with activities of any kind. But, this airstrip has played a very important role in the defense of India during the 2nd World War. Today all is forgotten, no details of the activities that happened here between 1943 and 1945 exist, not even in government and military records. The station came into existence during the war as a forward airfield against the Japanese conquest of Burma. The large strip served its purpose well as a landing ground for planes and also as a training space for special bombing missions.
The Amarda Road airstrip, as it was called in war terminology, spreads across an area of nearly 900 acres. Built in the 1940’s at a cost of Rs 3 Crore it was eventually abandoned after the war. It was probably named as the Amarda Road Airfield due to the nearby Amarda Road railway station.