Search for content in message boards

Douglas R. Mackeachie

Douglas R. Mackeachie

Posted: 1096803136000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1264724527000
Surnames: Mackeachie
Douglas R. Mackeachie was an executive with the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, or A & P. In World War II, he was "loaned" to the Government to assist with the logistics of feeding troops spread all over the world.

He was the husband of my Aunt, Martha Mackeachie, who is unfortunately long gone, as are all living family members who would remember this man.

At some point in the War, he was on a plane, believed to be a commercial as opposed to military plane that was shot down. Family lore has the shoot-down as occuring in the Atlantic on the way to London.

Can anyone help me with information about the gov. program that brought in business executives to assist the war effort, the plane crash itself, or anything specific about Douglas R. Mackeachie?

Re: Douglas R. Mackeachie

Posted: 1264710233000
Classification: Query

I found an old Time magazine article that mentions a Douglas C. MacKeachie who worked for A&P and in a business/purchasing capacity for the war effort in WW2. I can give you the link if you want it. I notice the middle initials are different, but could be an error on the writer's part. Also, how was the name pronounced? Was it "mack-kayhee" by chance? I ask because my ancestors were MacKeachey's from Scotland in the 1700's. Let me know if you want the link.
Thanks, Andrew

Re: Douglas R. Mackeachie

Posted: 1380984912000
Classification: Query
Colonel Douglas C. MacKeachie
General Staff
Service of Supply

On January 17, 1943 a C-87 Liberator Express, the transport version of the B-24D bomber, of the 9th Ferrying Group, Air Transport Command left Accra in what is now Ghana on a flight to Natal, Brazil with 12 U.S. military personnel and 13 RAF personnel on board. It disappeared into the south Atlantic, out of sight and reach of search and rescue teams. Several on board survived to drift in life boats in the Equatorial current, which runs across the Atlantic from Africa to Brazil at approximately 1-2 knots, only to die one by one until the last body was found in a life boat that drifted ashore at Ponte Negra, Brazil – 18 days after the plane was reported missing.
Among them was Colonel Douglass MacKeachie, Ridgewood High School class of 1917. Although born in Brooklyn December 4, 1900, he became a well known son of Ridgewood and lived on Beech Street (now Cottage Place), was on several sports teams in high school and was School Notes Editor for the Arrow. He established what high school principal Somerville called “one of the finest scholastic records in school history”. He had a gift for Latin and often helped classmates with their difficult passages. He spent the next four years at Colgate, earning a degree in 1921. It was about this time that his family moved to East Orange.
For a number of years he served as Vice President, Director of Purchases, New England Division, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, living in Medfield, MA. In 1940 he went to Washington D.C. as Deputy Director of Purchases for the Office of Production Management, later serving as Director of Purchases for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the War Production Board before becoming a civilian employee of the War Department as Deputy Director of Procurement and Distribution for the Services of Supply (SOS).
From the very beginning of the war it was policy in the European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) that the United States would purchase as many of its supplies as possible in the United Kingdom in order to save shipping space. Local procurement was therefore destined to be an important function, and to handle such matters a General Purchasing Board and a Board of Contracts and Adjustments were created in June 1942, both of them headed by a General Purchasing Agent. Colonel MacKeachie was commissioned in May 1942 and sent to the United Kingdom to fill this position.
The shortest distance over water between the western hemisphere and Europe or Africa is between Brazil and French West Africa. Natal, Brazil was the largest United States air base outside US territory and became known as the "trampoline to victory" as military activities in Europe as well as in the Indian sub continent transited through this base to and from the USA.
MacKeachie was a passenger on a plane which was reported missing on January 20, 1943 - having gone down about 700/800 miles east of the Brazilian coast. Search and rescue was abandoned on January 29. On February 4 a life raft was found adrift at sea by the USS Kearney about 60 miles east of Recife. The raft contained the remains of a man later identified as the pilot. An inventory of articles found in the raft included five life jackets, indicating that at least four RAF personnel had made it to the life raft. The next day, a second life raft was found on the beach at Ponte Negra, Brazil. One body was found in the raft and was identified as an American member of the flight crew. Among articles found in the raft was an American Express Travelers Cheque bearing the signature of Colonel MacKeachie. Also found was one insignia of rank of Colonel, USA. Six life jackets were also found indicating that the raft originally had six occupants. It is clear that, as each survivor died, the remaining survivors buried him at sea until there was nobody to bury the last casualty.
As neither of the two bodies found had evidence of injuries, it is assumed that the plane was forced down but did not explode or crash violently. Hunger and thirst are assumed to be the cause of death as there was no means to collect rain water. Attempts to catch fish were made by using a Colonel’s eagle insignia as a hook. The bones and tails of several small fish were found in the raft.
The official date of death for the eleven who are assumed to have survived the crash but perished at sea was established as February 3, 1943. Col. MacKeachie, who left a widow and one daughter, is listed among the Missing in Action or Buried at Sea at Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. He is also listed among the service casualties in Medfield, MA. At death he was 42 years old.

Re: Douglas R. Mackeachie

Posted: 1398556072000
Classification: Query
Mr. Stout, thanks for the info you provided.

Not to derail this thread on Col. MacKeachie, I was wondering if I may ask you some further questions about the ill-fated flight (41-1708).

First to all my Grandfather, 1st Lt. Hugh P. Minor was also one of the passengers of the plane on which Col. MacKeachie flew on. Based on newspaper records, I was aware of the recovery of Major Mills’s body on the beach at Brazil but I was unaware of the second life raft being found by the USS Kearney. I was wondering if you can share where you found this info.

Also you have provided some details on the Brazil life-raft which were not covered in the newspaper articles our family had access to. We did not know about the number of life jackets found and the check signed by Col MacKeachie.

Do you know if the id of the six dog-tags found in the bag were ever released? Also do you know if a complete list of passengers exists for this flight?

Here is some further info which you may know about but did not cover in your book. Flight 41-1708 had a flight crew of six. For passengers there were seven United States Army officers and enlisted men and 13 members of the British air force components.

Capt. Orval Eknes, Scanlon Minn., pilot of the transport.
Capt. Felton B. Lancaster, Mexia, Tex., co-pilot.
Second Lt. Joseph F. Peoples, Jersey City, N.J., navigator.
Master Sgt. Alvin A. Young, Bossier City, La., radio operator.
Sgt. James N. Clauss, Washington, Ind., crew member.
Sgt. Charles W. McKain, Franklin, Pa., crew chief.

First Lt. John A Byler
First Lt. Hugh P. Minor
Major Arthur Mills
(These men were returning from having delivered a B-17 to Africa from Miami. Major Mills was the pilot, 1st Lt. Minor was the co-pilot, 1st Lt. Byler was the navigator.)

Lt. Col. Russell Reed Brunner
Col. Douglas C. MacKeachie

Unfortunately I don’t have any other names of the passengers. Do you know where I may find a list?

One other item not mentioned in your book, in addition to the six dog tags they found a notebook that belonged to 1st Lt. Byler. In the notebook was drawn a prophetic skull and crossbones and a crude sketch of a grave on a page dated January 15, a few days before the flight. The notebook contained no other entry or writings about the flight.

There is very good info about the flight and the search in the book: THE EAGLE IN THE EGG, by OLIVER LA FARGE, pg. 319.

Here is a link to a site in Brazil that provides (detailed/graphic) info about the discovery of the life raft that washed ashore with Major Mills’s body.
per page

Find a board about a specific topic