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Widow hopes to recover WW2 pilot’s remains

Lt. Bob King died in a B-24 crash in India
Posted: 3:58 PM, Jan 31, 2022
Updated: 2022-01-31 20:42:26-05
B-24 Collage.jpeg

TUCSON, Ariz (KGUN) — In a story of service, sacrifice, love and determination spanning almost 80 years, this story may finally have a closing chapter.

Lieutenant Robert King lost his life trying to get through some of the most dangerous flying weather on Earth.

He was scheduled to come home after that mission.

Lt. King was in command of a B-24 nicknamed the Flub Dub, a bomber on a cargo mission between India and China to support Chinese troops fighting the Japanese.

It meant flying over The Hump, a region of the Himalaya Mountains notorious for some of the world’s most dangerous flying weather. The plane was thirty minutes from its destination when it made a radio call—it’s last radio call.

For many years, natives knew very well where the plane crashed.

1 Shidibi Mtn. shrouded in clouds.jpg
Shidibi Mountain, site of the wreckage, shrouded in clouds.

Now almost 99 years old, Lt. King’s widow Elizabeth Commins wants to bring his remains home.

“So I can have some closure," she shared. "I’m 98, and I want it soon.”

That closure could come from the work of Clayton Kuhles and his organization MIA Recoveries. He's been doing exploration work in the area for some time now.

“Someone says a site’s hard to get to, that’s all I need, " he said. "I’m going to go there.”

His drive to climb the most challenging mountains led him to India where he met locals who told him of crash sites throughout the mountains.

He’s been working to recover remains from them ever since.

42 Guide, Tapir and Clayton on Shidibi Mtn..jpg
(l-r) Mountain guide with Tapir, and Clayton.

Kuhles says the U.S Military learned of the Flub Dub crash site in the 1940s when natives recovered and sold guns from the wreckage.

“And they've got a hand-drawn map up here, which shows precisely where the wreck is, but they never went there. They were turned around by bad weather and other logistics issues," he explained. "And then in the late 40s They were going to mount a second expedition to go to the site, but they cancel that again. It's just too hard to get to.”

Kuhles says after reaching and documenting the site twelve years ago, Commins family learned of his work more recently when they became determined to give her the closure she hopes for.

This meant involving the government to send a military recovery team to India where the remains of Lieutenant Bob King and nine other servicemen rest on a mountainside more than two miles high.

Kuhles is used to hearing that tough geography and tricky politics can get in the way.

"That's a cop out. Let's be honest about it. It's a cop out. If they don't want to send a military team they could use a contractor team, university students they can hire directly. They can hire the same trekking service that I use," he shared. "These are all tribal people. Nobody knows that land better than the tribal groups there. I can go anywhere there is never a problem.

Commins and her family are hoping one of Arizona’s Senators or Members of Congress may use their influence to help a widow who’s waited 78 years.

To see photos of Kuhles' discovery mission, visit this gallery; B-24 crash site remains recovered over half a century later.

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