A fascinating photograph from an issue of Frontline magazine from 1991 showed the wreck of a DHC-4 Caribou with a background of tall mountain ranges , with the caption identifying it as ‘The Walong Memorial’ . The photograph was a fascinating reminder of the relics that remained in the north eastern airfields. Its origin was a mystery to outsiders, but not so to those on the ground for the story of the “Caribou Memorial” seems to be told on a board that appears next to the Caribou. The tantalising details however remain out of grasp as the picture is of too poor a resolution for the text to be deciphered.
In recent years, a close up of the accompanying board revealed that the aircraft crashed at the airfield in July 1985. The aircraft in question was Caribou BM769 , the second oldest Caribou in IAF service . Inducted just after 1963, the aircraft was in operation for the next 22 years till 1985, when it struck the ridge of a cliff coming in to land, leaving behind its landing gear and had to belly land at the ALG.
In 2003, EAC HQ decided to take the airframe from Walong and restore it for Static display. And it was moved by road to Shillong where it found its place in the EAC Museum.
Walong airfield is devoid of its sentinel that stood guard for nearly 20 years.. . However , still reminding the presence of aircraft is a wing section from DHC-3 Otter IM1728 displayed near the war memorial site.
Walong ALG has seen a significant transformation since the 60s. In 2016, the whole area has been upgraded to a concrete runway/pavement area – a far cry from the dirt strip of the 90s.
Photos Courtesy – Joydeep Sircar , Misc Sources, Google Earth.