WASHINGTON (AP) — Nine servicemen who died when their bomber was shot down over the Pacific during World War II have been identified, and their remains will be buried in a single casket at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
The Pentagon says the men took off in their B-17E Flying Fortress named “Naughty But Nice” in June 1943 from an airfield in Papua New Guinea. The plane was damaged by anti-aircraft fire and then shot down by Japanese fighter aircraft.
Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William J. Sarsfield of Philadelphia; 2nd Lt. Charles E. Trimingham of Salinas, Calif.; Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Christopherson of Blue Earth, Minn.; and Tech. Sgt. Leonard A. Gionet of Shirley, Mass., will be buried as a group in a single casket Wednesday at Arlington.
Also in the casket will be the remains of previously identified crew members 2nd Lt. Herman H. Knott, 2nd Lt. Francis G. Peattie, Staff Sgt. Henry Garcia, Staff Sgt. Robert E. Griebel and Staff Sgt. Pace P. Payne. They were buried individually in 1985. A 10th man, the navigator and only survivor of the crash, 2nd Lt. Jose L. Holguin, was held as a prisoner of war until his release in September 1945.
Remains were recovered in 1949 on New Britain Island but couldn’t be identified at the time. The remains were buried as unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
In the early 1980s, Holguin returned to the area and located the crash site. In 1985, remains were exhumed and identified as Knott, Payne, Garcia, Peattie and Griebel. A fragment of the aircraft’s nose art was recovered and is on display at a museum in Papua New Guinea.
In 2001, a team excavated the site and found additional human remains and related equipment.
The Defense Department said scientists used dental comparisons and DNA matching techniques to identify the remains.
At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans, the Defense Department said. Now, more than 73,000 are unaccounted for from the conflict.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)