Ten-year-old Sao Yotkantha was helping his father in their rice field when he heard the roar of an airplane unusually close. He looked up and saw a twin-engine plane hit the ground a half-mile away and burst into flames.

It was World War II, and the crash of the U.S. aircraft was the biggest event in the history of Baan Mae Kua, a small village in northern Thailand.

"I heard a rumbling sound and saw a flying boat, as Thais called it back then,” recalled an animated Sao, now 87. "It was really close. It wasn’t like any sound I heard before, and then I saw it go down.”