Mayurbhanj: A memorial service was held at the Amarda Road Airstrip today for the 14 airmen who had died in a crash here on 26 July 1945.
War historian Anil Dhir, eminent Gandhian Aditya Patnaik, locals including school children paid homage to the departed souls who have been forgotten in history. Wreaths were laid for each of the dead airmen.
Very few people know that the skies of Odisha had seen the crash of two aircrafts which resulted in the deaths of 14 airmen.
On 26 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.
As many as 14 airmen belonging to six nations – America, Britain, Netherlands, Canada, Australia and India, the crews of the two aircraft died in the crash.
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, over 3.5 kms long.
The airstrip had played a very important role in the defence of India during the 2nd World War.
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.
Attending the memorial service, Anil Dhir requested Odisha and West Bengal governments to erect small memorials for these airmen at Amarda Road and the crash site.
He also promised that he would contact the British and USA authorities for material to be displayed at the Museum, and also said that a book on the history of the base and the crash would be released on the next commemoration day.
Aditya Patnaik proposed that he would give ample space in the Gandhi Gurukul at the airbase for setting up a small museum which will highlight the importance of the airbase during World War II.