Air Force to Turn Over Partial Remains of War Dead
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The unidentified partial remains of 10 U.S. airmen killed in a Persian Gulf War crash will be returned to the families for individual burial rather than interred in a mass grave, officials said Wednesday.
The families asked for the partial remains even though none could be positively identified by forensics experts, said Capt. Sylvia Freeman, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon.
The 10 were among 14 airmen killed in the Jan. 31 crash of an Air Force AC- 130H Spectre gunship during a secret mission over Kuwait.
The aircraft, a modified cargo plane, crashed in the gulf near the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The search for the victims ended April 6.
The bodies of four victims were positively identified and the other remains have been kept at Dover Air Force Base, Del. The 10 are believed to be the only ones among the American combat deaths in the Gulf whose remains were recovered but not positively identified.
In a related development, the Pentagon announced that Army investigators had determined that five U.S. soldiers previously included on the list of non- combat deaths were killed by Iraqi forces.
The Army also switched three soldiers from the combat death list to the non-combat list. The changes mean the official combat death toll for the war has increased by two, to 143.
The decision to send the unidentified remains to the families of the crewmen rather than bury them as a group was made Friday by Air Force Secretary Donald Rice, according to Tech. Sgt. Sharon Naimo, a spokeswoman at the Air Force Mortuary Services at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Sandy Viers of Maxwell, Iowa, whose brother Staff Sgt. Timothy R. Harrison, 31, was one of the crash victims, said Rice told the families by letter of his decision.
″We know it’s not our loved ones, but we have some remains,″ Mrs. Viers said. ″We want him to be honored at his own individual service, not at a group service held by someone who knows nothing about him.″
Ms. Naimo said that at the request of the families, seven sets of remains will be flown to Pensacola, Fla., for individual burial at Barancas National Cemetery.
One set will be sent to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.; one to a cemetery at the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo.; and one to Iowa for Harrison’s family.
The first two shipments of remains were scheduled to leave Dover on Wednesday, she said.
Besides Harrison, the nine other crash victims whose remains were not fully recovered are: Maj. Paul J. Weaver of Alamosa, Colo.; Capt. Arthur Galvan of Newport Beach, Calif.; Capt. Thomas C. Bland Jr., of Gaithersburg, Md.; Senior Master Sgt. Paul G. Buege of Milwaukee, Wis.; Senior Master Sgt. James B. May III of Jonesboro, Tenn.; Tech. Sgt. Robert K. Hodges of Panama City, Fla.; Staff Sgt. John P. Blessinger of Suffolk, N.Y.; Tech. Sgt. John L. Oelschlager of Pensacola; and Sgt. Barry M. Clark of Fairhope, Ala.