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Arlington may deny Australia crash memorial
28 October 2006

A memorial for U.S. troops killed during World War II when their B-17 crashed in Australia may not be moved to Arlington National Cemetery.

The marker, which is set to be displayed beginning November 8, 2006, in front of the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C., honors the 40 airmen and soldiers who died when their bomber-turned-transport went down as it was headed to New Guinea, according to Robert Cutler, author of a book on the disaster, “Mackay’s Flying Fortress.”
 
Cutler said the Bakers Creek Memorial Association, named for the area near Mackay, Australia, where the plane crashed, wants the marker permanently displayed at Arlington. But Jack Metzler, the cemetery’s superintendent, said no one has approved locating the marker there. He said Army Secretary Francis Harvey has agreed to accept donation of the marker, but placing it would be at his discretion.

Metzler said Arlington gets about a half-dozen requests a year to locate markers, memorials, plaques or commemorative pieces of art at the cemetery but does not solicit any.

“We are not looking for any of them,” he said. “Our primary mission is as a national cemetery to bury the remains of our fallen comrades.”

Memorials and the like, regardless of their intention to honor fallen troops, take away space needed to bury veterans and those killed in wars, Metzler said.

Cutler is hoping the Army will change its mind, however, and points out that Arlington is undergoing a major, 40-acre expansion. The June 14, 1943, crash was the worst aviation disaster in Australia.

Expansion at the cemetery, which began more than a year ago, will create space for 26,000 new graves.

Posted: 28 October 2006