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Remains of US World War II Pilots Returned From India

  • VOA News

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, second left, with U.S. military members after they loaded the casket of what could be the remains of one to two crew members from a World War Two crash, in a C-17 aircraft, at Palam airport, in New Delhi, India, April 13

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, second left, with U.S. military members after they loaded the casket of what could be the remains of one to two crew members from a World War Two crash, in a C-17 aircraft, at Palam airport, in New Delhi, India, April 13

Seven decades after their service and death, what may be the remains of two American pilots have been turned over to the United States.

A repatriation ceremony on Wednesday attended by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter paid final respects to what U.S. military members believe are the remains of crew members from a B-24 bomber and military transport plane that crashed over the Himalayan mountains while on a supply run to China in 1944.

The remains were placed in ceremonial boxes, and then in coffins draped with the American flag.

"This is a sad duty, but it means a great deal," Carter said. "Those guys whose remains are in those coffins would have wanted that, and would be proud and happy to be home, and their families, too."

Two bone fragments and a few other artifacts from the B-24 flight were found by an excavation team in the rugged mountains of Arunachal Pradesh, along India's northeast border.

A second set of remains found by a third party in the same region was also turned over. The Pentagon believes that they are "possibly" related to a C-109 that crashed in July 1945, also en route to China.

The excavation team climbed to an elevation of more than 9,000 feet – hiking for three days just to set up base camp, Marine Captain Greg Lynch said.

U.S. Army soldiers from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) participate in a repatriation ceremony of possible American remains in New Delhi, India, April 13, 2016.

U.S. Army soldiers from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) participate in a repatriation ceremony of possible American remains in New Delhi, India, April 13, 2016.

Lynch also said the team included 12 mainly military members and another dozen or so contractors.

The Pentagon has restated its commitment to the families of missing soldiers from World War Two and the Vietnam and Korean wars, who have complained over the years of delays and neglect in finding and identifying remains of their loved ones overseas.

Repatriation of these remains may provide hope to the families of over 350 U.S. service members still classified as missing in India; however, no more excavations have been planned in India for the fiscal year that ends September 30.

The remains will be taken to Honolulu, for DNA testing.

VOA correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

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