China Turning Over US Airmen Remains
Sep. 22, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) _ China is handing over to U.S. officials what are believed to be the remains of two American airmen whose B-24 bomber crashed into a mountain in southern China during World War II, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.
A repatriation ceremony will be held Thursday in the city of Guilin, and the remains will be flown to Hawaii for examination by the Army's Central Identification Laboratory, said Pentagon spokesman Larry Greer.
Robert Jones, the Pentagon's top official on matters of American missing servicemen, will attend the ceremony, Greer said.
The two sets of remains were found this summer during an unpublicized joint U.S.-China recovery operation in a rugged ravine on Mao'er Mountain in Guangxi province, Greer said. U.S. and Chinese officials have made multiple trips to the site since recovering bone fragments there in January 1997.
All 10 airmen died when their B-24 crashed during a return flight to Guangxi after bombing Japanese ships near Taiwan on Aug. 31, 1944. Greer said forensic scientists believe they now have most, if not all, of the 10 sets of remains and are ``very close'' to positive identifications of most of them.
According to U.S. military records, the crew members were pilot 2nd Lt. George H. Pierpont; co-pilot 2nd Lt. Franklin A. Tomenendale; navigator 2nd Lt. Robert L. Deming; bombardier 2nd Lt. George A. Ward; engineer Staff Sgt. Anthony W. DeLucia; radio operator Sgt. Ellsworth V. Kelley; radar observer Pfc. Fred P. Buckley; and gunners Staff Sgt. William A. Drager, Sgt. Robert L. Kearsey, and Pvt. Vincent J. Netherwood.
The Department of Defense has not provided the men's hometowns.
The bomber crash site lay undisturbed for 52 years until two Chinese farmers hunting for wild herbs found it on Oct. 2, 1996, Chinese officials said. The discovery was made public in November 1996 when Chinese President Jiang Zemin turned over photographs of five dog tags taken from the aircraft, as well as a videotape of the crash site, to President Clinton.
The United States poured aid and bomber crews into China during World War II to fight the Japanese, who had invaded much of the country. About 1,000 U.S. planes went down over China during the war, and about 100 remain missing. The Pentagon has cited China's cooperation on the B-24 recovery operation as a helpful influence toward a broader improvement of military-to-military relations.