POPPELL, HARRY WILLARD, JR., Captain, # 0-793835, USAAF

 

Harry W. Poppell Jr. was born on 22 May 1919 to Harry W. Poppell (1887-1940) and Ruby E. (Howard) Poppell (1891-1953) (married 23 April 1911, Wayne Co., GA). Siblings included Ruth (Poppell) Carlton (1912-2004), Juanita Eudora Poppell (1914-1975), Myrna Elizabeth (Poppell) Sellers (1916-1994), Carol C. (Poppell) Duquid (1921-2005), Clifford Shannon Poppell (1923-1997), William Ashton “Billy” Poppell (1926-1988).

 

He enlisted in the USAAF in Jacksonville, Florida, on 23 January 1942. He completed flight instruction through advanced schools and was multi-engine rated. He earned his commission and pilot wings and was sent overseas through India to China. On 11 February 1944 a Curtiss C-46A Commando, # 41-24634, assigned to 1st Transport Group, 3rd Transport Squadron (Station 6), departed the airfield at Chabau, India, at 1027 Zulu for Kunming, China, on a cargo mission (Wolmite & 4 mail pouches) on its return flight to Chabau, India, flying through the Himalayan mountain range (the Hump). It crashed enroute. It was about 2 hours out of Kunming, China, in the vicinity of Pimau, Burma, when it was caught in a downdraft (windshear) between mountain ridges.The aircraft functioned properly but, the pilot was unable to climb and fearing a crash, the crew was ordered to throw out the cargo and bail out. When 2ndLt Starling reached the open cargo door, he found MSgt Houghton and Pvt Wyatt hesitating to jump. Lt Starling ordered the men to jump and set an example by jumping. The altitude was about 12,000’. Pvt Wyatt reported that he followed Lt Starling out of the C-46. He was not sure but instantly after jumping, the C-46 crashed into a mountain and exploded. Wyatt was so near that his left leg was burned. He was unsure whether or not his parachute opened or was blown open by the explosion. Wyatt also suffered minor cuts and scratches. Both Starling and Wyatt made it to Fort Hertz. Natives at the crash site there were scattered portions of human remains of two bodies which indicated the pilot and MSgt Houghton were in the C-46 when it crashed. They found Ninghyi or Ngumla village on 6 March 1944. There Starling met Capt. Milton, U.S. Army and Capt. Frown of the British Army. They were taken to U.S. Navy doctor, Commander Luce. After recovery, his remains and those of MSgt. Houghton, indistinguishable, were buried 27 July 1949 in the Raleigh National Cemetery, North Carolina (Sec. 17, Grave 106).

 

His brother, Clifford S. Poppell, born 13 July 1923, served in the U.S. Army from 12 March 1944 to 8 December 1945. He died 16 January 1997 in Clay Co., Florida.

 

His brother William A. Poppell, born 1926, enlisted in the USAAF at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, Georgia, on 22 March 1944. He was a Staff Sergeant. He died on 8 May 1988 and is buried in the Oaklawn Cemetery, Jacksonville, Duval Co., Florida.