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United States Army Air Corps Crew
16 April 1944
NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 399-07 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2007
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public/Industry(703) 428-0711

Ten Missing WWII Airmen are Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of ten U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

They are Second Lieutenant Raymond A. Cooley, of Leary, Texas; Second Lieutenant Dudley R. Ives, of Ingleside, Texas; Second Lieutenant George E. Archer, of Cushing, Oklahoma; Second Lieutenant Donald F. Grady, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Technical Sergeant Richard R. Sargent, of North Girard, Pennsylvania; Technical Sergeant Steve Zayac, of Cleveland, Ohio; Staff Sergeant Joseph M. King, of Detroit, Michigan; Staff Sergeant Thomas G. Knight, of Brookfield, Illinois; Staff Sergeant Norman L. Nell, of Tarkio, Missouri;and Staff Sergeant Blair W. Smith, of Nu Mine, Pennsylvania; all U.S. Army Air Forces.The dates and locations of the funerals are being set by their families.

Representatives from the Army met with the next-of-kin of these men in their hometowns to explain the recovery and identification process and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the secretary of the Army.

On April 16, 1944, a B-24 Liberator crewed by these airmen was returning to the aerodrome at Nadzab, New Guinea, after bombing enemy targets near Hollandia.The aircraft was altering course due to bad weather and was proceeding to the aerodrome at Saidor, but it never returned to friendly lines.

In late 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea notified the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command that wreckage of a World War II bomber had been found in Morobe Province.Early the next year, a JPAC team surveyed the site and found aircraft wreckage and remains.They also collected more remains and Grady's identification tag from local villagers who had found the items at the crash site.

Later in 2002, a JPAC team began excavating the crash site and recovered remains and crew-related items, including identification tags for Knight and Smith.The team was unable to complete the recovery, and another JPAC team re-visited the site two weeks later to complete the excavation.The team found additional remains and identification tags for Sargent and King.

Among dental records, other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA in the identification of the remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.


6 September 2007:

This crew will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors following a funeral service at the Fort Myer Post Chapel.


8 June 2007:

Sixty-three years ago, with tears streaming down her face at a Wichita, Kansas, train station, Charlotte Archer sent her husband off to World War II. She was pregnant with the couple's daughter.

      Months later, George Archer and a crew of American servicemen went missing when their airplane crashed during a bombing mission in New Guinea. Now the widow knows when she'll get her late husband back.

      Charlotte Magdeburg — she remarried following the death of Archer — recently was told that her first husband will be buried September 10, 2007, at Arlington National Cemetery. It will be the first time Magdeburg and Archer will be together since December 1943.

      "I have such peace," she said Wednesday. "I know what happened. It's been a long time. I'm so emotional."

      Archer's remains were identified last year in a plane found crashed on a mountain in New Guinea. Archer, of Cushing, Oklahoma, and nine others were flying in a B-24 bomber when they got lost in a tropical storm on April 16, 1944.

      Archer's identity was confirmed using DNA from his brother. The couple's daughter was 2 months old when Archer, 24, died. There are now three grandchildren, said Magdeburg, 84.

      Archer will be buried with military honors. Magdeburg said she always hoped the plane crashed into a mountain, rather than the ocean, because the men could be found on land.

      Although Archer was positively identified in September, it has taken the Defense Department this long to plan his funeral because of all the deaths in Iraq and the record number of World War II veterans dying, Magdeburg said.
      She said she understands why those men and women get preference.

      Magdeburg, a Southern Baptist, is in a church support group that helps people who have experienced loss.
      When asked about the hardest part, Magdeburg said it was her daughter, Elaine, not seeing her father.

      She wept when talking about a young Elaine walking up to strangers on the street and saying, "Daddy?"

      Tuesday, Elaine Wells heard her father's voice recorded almost 70 years ago when her parents decided to make a record at a store.

      In September, Archer and Wells, too, will be together — for the first time ever.

      "It will make me very proud to be his daughter," she said. "He gave his life for our freedom. He gave the ultimate sacrifice."
 

Raymond A. Cooley,
Second Lieutenant, United States Army Air Corps


Service # 0-888887
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Texas
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart 

Second Lieutenant Raymond A. Cooley, 21, of Leary, Texas, and his blushing bride, Juanita ‘Nita Boddie Cooley, 18, of Texarkana, Texas, spent their honeymoon night on December 19, 1942, in the hotel in which they were married earlier that day in Decatur, Alabama. Neither could have known what was to come of their marriage. But the couple had been in love since a chance meeting in Texarkana. While attending Texas High School the year before, Nita worked part time at Boyds Drug Store at the corner of Broad and Main streets in downtown Texarkana. One night a strikingly handsome young man came sauntering into the store. It didn't hurt that he was wearing the uniform of an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps. ‘He came in and I noticed him and noticed him looking at me and I guess sparks flew’ Nita Cooley Jones recalled Friday afternoon at the home of her granddaughter and grandson-in-law Stacy James and Ben Mayo of Texarkana, Texas.‘He was from Leary, Texas, and was home on leave from the service.

Nita made sure she was working every afternoon and evening in the store from that first night on. Sure enough, it wasnt long before Cooley asked her out. On their first date, the suave lieutenant asked the gorgeous teen to marry him. ‘Ray only had 10 days leave and half of that was up, so I guess he figured he better make sure things happened fast’ Nita said, laughing. ‘After he left, we kept writing and I started working on my mother, Lou. That took about a year and then she gave up and agreed to let me marry him. But she rode with me by train to Alabama. Back in those years parents insisted on doing things like that, even if you were 18. After exchanging vows, Ray and Nita exchanged wedding bands. The gold band she have him contained the inscription, ‘Ray from Nita 12-19-42.

After the wedding, the couple had one night together because Cooley had to leave early the next morning for training and exercises in the B-24 Liberator ‘Here Tis. Nitas mother insisted on remaining another night in the hotel. She rented a room a few doors down the hall from the happy couples honeymoon suite. The next morning, Cooley left for B-24 training and she would not see him for several days. It would be a pattern they would follow for the next two years.

‘Theyd assign him and his crew to one base and Ray would call and Id be on my way’ Nita said. ‘Id hardly ever see him and then hed be transferred somewhere else and off Id go again. I made friends with his co-pilots wife, Mary Ives, married to Douglas Ives, and we started traveling together with her young son, Rodney. Wed just pack her Ford and take off. The time finally came for the crews assignment overseas. In December 1943, Ray and Nita said their last good-bye in Salt Lake City. What they both desperately hoped was that she would be soon writing him of her pregnancy with their first child. Ironically, the one and only letter she received came through his parents, the late Dillard and Claire Cooley of Leary.

The letter read, in part: ‘I am really sweating out a letter from Nita to find out if I am going to be a father. I dont know of anything I want more than to be the father of a child from Nita. She is the sweetest girl I have ever known and will always be the sweetest girl in the world for me. It would be impossible for me to love her any more than I do. I wouldnt trade her for all the money in the world. But when she did write that letter of her pregnancy, he would never receive it. ‘I didnt know I was pregnant until three months later after he left, after I got home to my parents in Texarkana’ Nita said. ‘Mary and I drove back together, and then she drove on down to her home and family in Corpus Christi.

After a few weeks, Nita was wondering why she had not received a letter from her husband, and then Mary called one afternoon. The first thing Mary said, was ‘Nita, I know that youre thinking like I'm thinking .... ‘What are you talking about? Thinking about what?

Mary paused, surprised, then: ‘Havent you heard? ‘Heard what? ‘Our boys are missing in action’ Mary told her .

Nita told her parents and then called her aunt and uncle. Soon most of the family was there for her. Although its been more than 50 years, today it all seems like a far-away bad dream. But Nita still remembers her shock. ‘Youre stunned more than anything’ she said. ‘My aunt and uncle went on out to Rays parents in Leary to tell them. Cooley was declared missing in action after the ‘Here Tis went down in New Guinea on April 16, 1944, because of bad weather and shortage of fuel. Another B-24, probably in his formation, had followed him and went down 500 meters from Cooleys crash site.

Tom McLeod of Texarkana, Texas, a historian for the 1st Marine Division Association and a noted MIA researcher, said the ‘Black Sunday bombing mission on April 16, 1944, to Hollandia, New Guinea, was a massive operation that included Cooleys plane. ‘The Fifth Air Force with a formation of approximately 100 B-24 bombers lost 37 aircraft to a late-afternoon frontal system which cut them off from their home bases of Gusap, Nadzab and Saidor’ McLeod said. ‘Another nine bombers were seriously damaged, and as a result the Fifth Air Force suffered its largest operational loss of the war. The freak weather created the biggest weather-related loss in aviation history. The weather forced Cooley to alter his course and head for the airfield at Saidor, southeast of Madang. He was never heard from again.

But in late 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Papua, New Guinea, notified the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command that wreckage of a World War II bomber had been found high in the mountains of the Morobe Province in the Finisterre Range at 4,700 feet. In 2002 the remains of all 10 of the ‘Here Tis crew were collected and identified. JPAC notified Nita of the news three years ago. She now is proud owner of a professionally printed book published for her and the other nine MIA pilots, which includes tremendous details of the massive mission to locate and retrieve their remains. Nita made another friend during those early years: Charlotte Archer, wife of navigator Eldon Archer. They remained friends throughout their ordeal and to this day speak to one another every month or two. Nita, Charlotte and Mary each remarried, Nita to William L. ‘Kack Jones, who was a B-17 tail gunner serving in Germany during World War II and was a POW in the famous Stalag 17-B. They were married 49 years at his death in 1993.

Ray and Nitas child was born a few months after Ray was listed as MIA. Diana R. Cooley today is married to David L. James. They have three children, Stacy James Mayo, Shanna James Killian and Shelly James Moss. Among them they have given Nita four great-grandchildren. Stacy James Mayo, former Miss Texarkana and Miss Texas, said that because of her ‘Papaw Kacks influence, she became an avid history buff and treasures a thick leather book made of her grandfathers flight jacket during his 28 months in Stalag 17-B in Germany. Shes also very excited about the recovering of her grandfather Rays remains, and his future burial in Arlington Cemetery. ‘When Washington, D.C., notified us that they had found my grandfathers plane and some of his remains, we were all stunned’ Stacy said. ‘They have since sent his Purple Heart and medals, a book with detailed locations and photographs of his skull, bones and teeth, and pictures of where his plane crashed. They are bringing our entire family to Washington, D.C., this June for a burial ceremony to honor grandfather Raymond as he is laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

The other nine crew members of the ‘Here Tis will be interred the same day. One particular item that was found outside the body of the wreckage but has yet to be returned to Nita is something she especially is looking forward to retrieving, perhaps at the burial ceremony in Washington. Its a simple gold wedding band with the inscription: ‘Ray From Nita 12-19-42.

Texas State Flag
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal

Dudley R.Ives
Second Lieutenant, United States Army Air Corps

Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Service # 0-687035
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Texas
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart. His remains were recovered. 

Except for a few short memories in his 4-year-old mind, Rodney Ives relied on stories from his mother and uncles about his late father, U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Dudley Ives. 
And pictures such as him standing waist high to his father, mimicking a military salute. Or the one of his father sitting at a table with John Wayne at a California Army base where his father's plane, "Here 'Tis," waited for combat in World War II. 

The elder Ives, who was from the Gulf Coast town of Ingleside, went missing after the plane and all 10 on board disappeared after a bombing run in New Guinea in 1944. Rodney Ives and other families of the missing believed they were dead and figured their remains and how they died would always be a mystery.

But in 2001, a villager in New Guinea spotted wreckage and reported it to U.S. authorities. It sparked an investigation that has brought long-awaited closure.

On Monday, the military announced it had made positive identification of the 10 airmen and is returning remains to surviving family for burial services.

Rodney Ives had notified the military in 2002 after reading a newspaper report that a U.S. plane from the World War II era was discovered in New Guinea. He received a phone call from military officials in December that his father was identified.

For Ives, now 68 and living in Fort Worth, he was able to attend his father's memorial service Feb. 19 in Aransas Pass, which was organized by the military. And he is looking forward to another service in honor of his father and the entire crew at Arlington National Cemetery.

"(The Aransas Pass service) was a happy day," Ives said. "My father was back in Ingleside and not in the jungles of New Guinea. We thought they probably had crashed out in the ocean. And they usually don't ever find those people."

The B-24 Liberator plane had bombed enemy targets April 16, 1944, and was flying to an aerodrome to avoid bad weather when it disappeared.

The crew's remains were identified using archived records of the flight, dog tags, ID cards and DNA testing of bones.

Dudley Ives served with the 403rd Bombardment Squadron, 43rd Bombardment Group. A VFW post in Ingleside, where Rodney Ives donated his father's Purple Heart and pictures, is named after him.

Texas State Flag
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal

George Eldon Archer
Second Lieutenant, Untied States Army Air Corps


Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Service # 0-685343
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Oklahoma
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart

The Department of Defense has identified the remains of an Oklahoma Airman, missing since World War II. News On 6 anchor Omar Villafranca reports more than 60 years later the family of Second Lieutenant George Eldon Archer can close a sad chapter in their life. Villafranca went to Cushing on Tuesday and talked with Archer's widow, nearly 63 years after her husband’s last mission.

At 23-years-old, Second Lieuenant Eldon Archer was running bombing missions in the South Pacific. Back home in Cushing, Oklahoma he was a romantic husband.

"He was a very affectionate person and we were very much in love,” said Archer’s widow Charlotte Magdeburg.

The day before Eldon's final mission he received a letter from home, in it was a picture of his loving wife holding their newborn baby girl. It would be the first and only time Eldon Archer would see his daughter. That same day, Eldon wrote his wife for the last time.

"And told me I looked like I was holding a little doll, and that I looked motherly," said Magdeburg.

The next day, on April 16, 1944, Eldon's B-24 Liberator was lost during a powerful storm.

"It was one of the most devastating times in my life," Magdeburg said.

After 22 months the U.S. military declared the crew of the B-24 dead.

Eldon's daughter grew up learning about her dad from family members.

"There was always pictures around when I was little of my dad, and they told me how smart he was, and how he graduated from high school when he was 16 and was valedictorian," Archer’s daughter Elaine Wells said.

Then, 57 years later, in 2001, the U.S. Military found a crashed B-24 in the mountains of New Guinea. At the site they found the remains of 10 U.S. servicemen, including Eldon Archer.

For the last few year, the Archer family honored Eldon at an empty gravesite in Cushing. Soon, they'll bury his discovered remains in Arlington National Cemetery. The Archer family says the ceremony at Arlington Cemetery will be a happy one.

Eldon's widow is glad they found his remains, but says she has always known where he was.

"Well, I know all this time he's been in Heaven, and I have peace about that," she said.

Charlotte later remarried and had two more children with Paul Magdeburg, also a World War II veteran.

Archer's remains will be buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery later this year. Charlotte and more than three generations of Archer's will travel to Virginia for the ceremony.

Oklahoma State Flag
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal

Donald F. Grady
Second Lieutenant, Untied States Army Air Corps


Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Service # 0-685799
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Pennsylvania
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart

The remains of a Harrisburg native killed in World War II have been identified.

Second Lieutenant Donald Grady, of Harrisburg, was killed when his B-24 Liberator went down over New Guinea on April 16, 1944.

It is not known whether his plane crashed or was shot down.

Grady's family members, who have since moved from the area, have indicated he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Sam Trout never met his Uncle Don Grady but grew up feeling that he knew this fun-loving man who enjoyed hunting.

The Fairview Twp. resident said he felt "surprised and saddened" to learn this week about the identification of the remains of Second Lieuenant Donald F. Grady and nine other U.S. airmen who had been missing in action since their World War II bomber mission over New Guinea 63 years ago.

Grady, also of Fairview Twp., had been a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator "Here T'is," which failed to return to its base on April 16, 1944, after bombing targets near Hollandia, a Japanese stronghold on New Guinea.

At his family's request, Grady will receive a hero's burial in Arlington National Cemetery with the group remains of seven of his fellow crew members, said Larry Greer, U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office spokesman. One crew member will be buried in Texas and the other will be buried in Michigan. Greer said the Arlington burial has not been scheduled.

"Our family always hoped that Uncle Donnie was alive," Trout said. "But nobody ever knew. I grew up seeing his picture and felt like I knew him."

Grady, who lived at Milton Hershey School for nine years, enlisted in the service shortly after his 1941 graduation, his nephew said. Grady was 20 when he was listed as MIA.

"My dad [the late Harry Trout] used to say that Uncle Donnie was a fun-loving guy who voluntarily enlisted in the Army Air Corps," Trout said. "He said Uncle Donnie liked to joke, sing 'Der Fuehrer's Face' and hunt. When World War II started, my parents had four kids and my mother was pregnant with another. My dad signed up for the Army and was at D-Day. He was overseas when he heard that Uncle Donnie was missing in action."

Sam Trout's sister, Dorothea Trout Jinnah of Virginia Beach, Va., remembered her uncle as "a very good-looking man with bright, blue eyes and a big dimple in his chin."

"He was very happy, full of life and smiled a lot," she said. "He loved kids and made us the center of attention. Before leaving for World War II, he sat me on his knee and told me he would scratch my name and my brothers' and sisters' names on every bomb that went down. I hugged him."

Jinnah was 7 when her family learned that his plane had gone down and he was missing.

"That was the first time I ever saw my father cry," she said. "It was very traumatic. I imagined that Uncle Donnie was captured by natives who would see his beautiful blue eyes and not kill him. I prayed for years that Uncle Donnie would be found. This news brings closure after 63 years."

Sam Trout said that his dad came home after the war ended in 1945 and fathered two more children -- his sister, Donna Trout McKeever of Tiffin, Ohio, born in 1946 and named after their missing uncle; and Sam Trout, born in 1948.

Amy Trout of Harrisburg, Don Grady's great-niece and Sam Trout's daughter, called his disappearance "a family mystery." She keeps a photo of him in her living room and has his gold wristwatch, which she said still works.

"We've waited forever to find out what happened," she said. "It's sad, but now we know. I just wish my grandfather was around to finally find out what happened to his little brother."

Military officials said the crew was returning to their air base at Nadzab, New Guinea, after bombing enemy targets near Hollandia when they had to alter their course because of bad weather in the hopes of reaching another allied air base. They never returned to friendly lines, the officials said.

In 2001, the wreckage of the B-24 was found in the mountains of Morobe province in Papua, New Guinea. The next year, an American recovery team surveyed the site and found aircraft wreckage and remains. Local villagers, who had found the crash site, gave them Grady's identification tags.

Greer said the 10 crew members were identified through dental records, DNA, other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence.

"We have recovered partial identified remains as well as group unidentified remains," he said. "With the exception of two who will be buried elsewhere, the remains will be buried as a group."



A U.S. Army Air Corps officer with local ties was among 10 World War II servicemen whose remains were recently identified and returned to their families.

One of the airmen, 2nd Lt. Donald F. Grady, has a nephew, Sam Trout, living in Fairview Township, said Trout's sister, Dorothea Trout Jinnah of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

She declined further comment. Trout could not be reached for comment.

Larry Greer, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, said Grady has another relative who said she didn't want to be contacted by media.

The department has offered to bury the servicemen in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., with full military rites, Greer said.

He said Grady's family is considering the arrangements. Two of the 10 servicemen have already been buried by their families in Detroit and Texas.

Grady was listed as a 20-year-old Harrisburg resident when he enlisted in 1943. The serviceman's birth date is listed as Sept. 8, 1923, and his death date as April 16, 1944, when 
the B-24 Liberator he and the other airmen were in never returned to friendly lines after bombing enemy targets near Hollandia, NewGuinea, Greer said.

"We don't know why the plane crashed," he said. "We know there was very bad weather at the time. They were bombing Japanese holdings. Whether the Japanese brought them down or the weather brought them down, we don't know."

Found by villagers: The crash site was discovered in late 2001 by villagers in Papua New Guinea, Greer said.

"The villager found two dog tags of Grady at the site and a dog tag for (Staff Sgt. Joseph M.) King, who was from Detroit," he said. "With the assistance of a military officer, they wrote a letter to the U.S. embassy."

The embassy contacted the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which sent teams to survey the site in 2002. They found the aircraft wreckage and the airmen's remains and collected other remains, along with Grady's identification tags, from local villagers, Greer said.

To identify the remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used several forensic tools, including dental records and DNA samples, Greer said.

Then families were located and Army mortuary officials informed them of the remains' discovery and identifications.

"Many of those relatives who knew or grew up hearing about the serviceman tell us it's like yesterday that he left and now it brings it all back," Greer said. "Even though they often tell us the family has moved on, they realize he was dead, but weren't able to get information about the circumstances. They want to know what happened to him."

Pennsylvania State Flag
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal

Richard R. Sargent
Technical Sergeant, Untied States Army Air Corps
Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces

Service # 13128550
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Pennsylvania
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart 
Pennsylvania State Flag

Air Medal

Purple Heart Medal

Steve Zayac
Technical Sergeant, United States Army Air Corps


Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Service # 20522589
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Ohio
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart 


Army Airman Steve Zayac has been gone from Cleveland's Old Brooklyn neighborhood nearly seven decades, leaving behind the mystery of what happened to him and a few photos of him and his crew in front of their B-24 Liberator bomber.

The plane and its crew disappeared in 1944 after a bombing run over New Guinea during World War II.

In the next month or two, the crew will return to the United States for a hero's burial at Arlington National Cemetery, ending the 63-year-old mystery.

For his namesake nephew, it's an appropriate end for a search marked by sophisticated science and emotion.

"In wartime, a bomber crew is like a family,'' Stephen Zayac said this week from his home in North Royalton, Ohio. "They ate together, slept together and ultimately died together. I think it's fitting that they will be buried together.''

Zayac, 55, was born eight years after his uncle's plane failed to return from its mission. Steve Zayac's remains were officially identified Monday by the Department of Defense, although the Zayac family was notified in January.

Steve Zayac joined the Army Air Corps in 1939 after graduating from James Ford Rhodes High School. He rose to the rank of technical sergeant, serving as a radio operator and gunner on a B-24, and fought in the Pacific.

He was 24 in April 1944, when the 10-man crew bombed Japanese positions in New Guinea and was knocked off course because of bad weather. The plane was never seen again, the Defense Department said. The crew was declared missing in action.

"This was before advanced maps and radar,'' Zayac said. "My understanding is they basically flew into the side of a mountain.''

The crew remained undisturbed until 2001, when the U.S. Embassy in New Guinea was notified that villagers in Morobe province found the wreckage and remains. One villager found identification tags of an airman, which were turned over to an Army team assigned to investigate.

Steve Zayac married while he was in the Air Corps, but his wife is dead. Army investigators contacted Stephen Zayac and his mother, the elder Zayac's sister-in-law.

Stephen Zayac and his brother traveled to Connecticut in 2005, where investigators presented family members with what they knew. The plane had been identified by the serial number on the tail, but making a definitive identification would require DNA.

Stephen Zayac's father, Harry, died in 1993, but the family still had a few of his combs and a hearing aid. They turned the items over to investigators, hoping that a few strands of hair still on the combs would be enough to make a match.

It was. The DNA matched the DNA in bone fragments in the plane. The Army alerted Zayac's family in January but held off on announcing it until they could identify all 10 of the crew members and contact their relatives.

 Zayac said he has been told that a burial in Arlington National Cemetery will occur in May or June.

"I hate the word closure, but it is nice that we know what happened,'' he said.

Steve Zayac PHOTO
This family photo provided by Stephen J. Zayac, Army Air Corps Sgt. Steve Zayac poses in a Cleveland neighborhood before his deployment in World War II. Helped with DNA genetic material from a family hair brush, the remains of Zayac, who disappeared in a crash on New Guinea during World War II, have been identified and will be taken to Arlington National Cemetery for burial.

Ohio State Flag
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal

Joseph M. King
Staff Sergeant, United States Army Air Corps


Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Service # 36576814
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Michigan
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart. His remains were recovered.

JM King PHOTO

A World War II airman, who disappeared over New Guinea when he was 20, has been laid to rest next to his parents in Detroit.

Joseph Michael King, a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was buried with military honors Friday in Woodmere Cemetery, The Detroit News reported. The funeral service was held at Holy Cross Hungarian Catholic Church, where King was baptized in 1923.

Mary King Cibor, King's 91-year-old sister, said she had to fight for burial in Michigan. The Army wanted to bury King in Arlington National Cemetery.

"It was the promise I made to my mother and father," Cibor said.

King was a rear gunner on a B-24 Liberator that disappeared in a bad storm as it was returning from a mission to a base in New Guinea in 1943. The wreckage of the bomber was discovered in 2001 and King's remains identified a year later.

King's parents had hoped for years that his body would be found. In 1975, they put a memorial marker in the family plot.


Shots rang out. Taps filled the air. U.S. Staff Sgt. Joseph Michael King is home at long last.
 

JM King Memorial PHOTO
Nearly 63 years to the day after his aircraft went missing in the jungles of New Guinea, King was laid to rest Friday at Woodmere Cemetery. The burial is a life's mission fulfilled for his oldest sister, Mary King Cibor,

The 91-year-old from Lincoln Park fought five years to bring his remains home after they were recovered in 2001 and identified in 2002. Through years of waiting and hoping, she vowed never to give up until King was found and brought home.

"It was the promise I made to my mother and father," said Cibor, who through the years made sure a portrait of King hung in the background of every family photograph and his name was mentioned at every holiday dinner. "My father, before he died, said, 'Never give up.'?"

In the end, the athletic 20-year-old, known for his ready smile, returned to the same neighborhood where he was born July 20, 1923. More than 100 people attended his funeral at Holy Cross Hungarian Catholic Church, the same parish in which he was baptized.

King was the rear gunner on a B-24 Liberator that was returning to the aerodrome at Nadzab, New Guinea, after bombing enemy targets near Hollandia on April 16, 1944. There was a terrible storm, and the plane was forced to alter course. It was flying to the aerodrome at Saidor when it disappeared, taking 10 crewmen with it.

So many planes went down that day they called it "Black Sunday" during World War II.

For years, the family hoped someone would find King's body. In 1975, they placed a granite monument featuring a relief of their young son in his Aircap, at the family plot in Woodmere Cemetery. Then, in 2001, the bomber was discovered in Morobe Province in New Guinea.

A team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command surveyed the site in 2002 and recovered remains as well as identification tags and other objects. The military wanted to bury him at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

But Cibor fought unsuccessfully to have him brought back home. Finally, in October, Cibor caught the ear of Sherry Huntington, 57, of Lincoln Park, a member of the Lincoln Park Historical Commission and president of the Downriver Genealogical Society.

Huntington called U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn. With his help, the military agreed to return the remains.

"I said, 'We can get him back, I'll help you,'?" Huntington said. "We knew it would take a couple months, we didn't know it was going to take six.

"If it was my husband, son or brother, I'd want him back too. This lady needed closure," Huntington said. "She said if it came to pass that she was no longer here when her brother came home, that I should see to it that her brother was buried at Woodmere."

Cibor said she always had a special bond with her brother because they share the same birthday.

"He was born at the house, and when my dad picked me up and brought me home that day, he placed the baby in my arms, and (said) 'This is your birthday present,'?" Cibor said. "I always felt especially close to him because of that."

Friday, Sgt. 1st Class Melissa Mitchell, a member of a U.S. Army Honor Guard sent from Fort Knox, Ky., shepherded Cibor through what was a joyous occasion.

Six servicemen carried her brother's body up the steps of the resplendent historic church.

After the burial, Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Borja handed Cibor the flag that draped her brother's coffin. She clutched it to her heart.

"It's a miracle," Cibor said. "Now my life is complete."

Purple Heart Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal
 

 

Thomas G. Knight
Staff Sergeant, United States Army Air Corps

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Service # 16126500
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Illinois
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart 

U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant Thomas Knight went missing in action in World War II. In the 60 years since, his life and valor were relegated to a dusty scrapbook and a stack of letters stuffed in a cedar chest in a distant relative's basement.

This week, Knight returned to his family's consciousness when the Defense Department announced his remains had been identified with those of his nine crewmates in Papua New Guinea.

The announcement answered one family mystery but stoked another.

"All I could think about was, 'Oh, I wish Grandpa was here for this,' "said Ann Knight of west suburban Lyons, daughter-in-law of the late "Grandpa Art," who was Thomas Knight's only sibling. "He wanted so much to have closure for this."

In 2001, about two years after Arthur Knight died, Ann Knight began receiving calls from a representative of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), who told her the department may have found Thomas Knight's remains in the South Pacific country. The representative asked for Ann Knight's help in finding his blood relatives for DNA tests.

Ann Knight's husband, William, died in 1981. The couple had a son and daughter, but neither is a blood relative of Knight because William Knight was adopted.

Ann Knight provided contact information for relatives of Knight's mother. Over the next few years, the representative would call occasionally and ask for something else. All of that work ended when JPAC matched a relative's DNA with a sample from Knight's remains.

On Monday, the Defense Department announced it had identified all 10 crew members of the B-24 Liberator that never returned to the aerodrome at Nadzab, Papua New Guinea, after bombing enemy targets near Hollandia on April 16, 1944. Sgt. Thomas G. Knight, a Brookfield resident and graduate of Morton High School who had enlisted Sept. 21, 1942, was a 23-year-old gunner on that plane. He had completed 19 missions, according to certificates and newspaper clippings in the family's scrapbook.

"The aircraft was altering course due to bad weather and was proceeding to the aerodrome at Saidor" Papua New Guinea, a statement from the Defense Department reported, "but it never returned to friendly lines."

A village resident in the Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea found the wreckage in late 2001 on a densely wooded hillside, said Larry Greer, spokesman for the Defense Department's POW/MIA office. Another resident and a member of the armed forces of Papua New Guinea sent a letter notifying the U.S. Embassy there.

JPAC began examining and excavating the site in 2002, Greer said. In the next few months, the crew found ID tags for Knight and four other crew members and human remains. Using dental records, other forensic tools, mitochondrial DNA, circumstantial evidence and documents from military archives, the JPAC team and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory definitively identified all 10 members of the crew.

"Each of these is a detective case that has gone cold for 40-60 years," Greer said. "It simply takes that long to develop leads."

Knight's remains and those of his crew members are in JPAC's lab in Hawaii and will be flown to Washington, where relatives will decide whether to bury individual remains in Arlington National Cemetery, in a cemetery closer to the crew members' hometowns or in a national cemetery near those hometowns, Greer said. The military also will present a group funeral and burial at Arlington for fragments of crew members' remains that are unidentifiable.

Knight's relatives have yet to decide on arrangements, Greer said. Although Ann Knight spoke publicly Tuesday, the other relatives have declined to be interviewed.

Knight's parents died in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Ann Knight obtained the scrapbook and Knight's letters after Arthur Knight's death.

About half of the scrapbook is dedicated to Thomas Knight and includes photos of him in uniform and his girlfriend, Doty. A telegram notifying the family that he was missing, a letter dated Feb. 25, 1946, listing a "presumptive finding of death" and condolences from then-Illinois Gov. Dwight Green are pasted in the pages. The family also held onto his Purple Heart and his letters.

"Thanks a million for your thoughtfulness and kindness," he wrote in gratitude for Christmas gifts sent to him in Australia in 1943. "I'm sorry I couldn't send you folks anything for Xmas but time wouldn't permit."

In that same letter, he notes that Australia is similar to the U.S., "but not as modern. They still use a lot of old cars and the women still wear long skirts," he wrote.

He signed all his letters, "Love, Tommy."

Ann Knight's son, Jim Knight, started reading the letters Monday night, trying to appreciate the great-uncle he never met, but also looking for clues to that family mystery. Grandpa Art told relatives that Knight's final flight was a "suicide mission," Jim Knight recalled, a kind of raid that supposedly provided planes with enough fuel to reach a target to bomb, but not enough fuel to return to base.

The Defense Department's Greer said, "We really don't know," what caused the B-24's crash.

Jim Knight is ready to begin researching.

"It would be great to know what actually happened," he said.


In the 60 years since he went missing in action during World War II, the life and valor of U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant Thomas Knight had become relegated to a dusty scrapbook and a stack of his letters stuffed in a cedar chest in a distant relative's basement.

This week, Knight returned to his family's conscience when the Defense Department announced his remains had been identified with those of his nine crewmates in Papua, New Guinea.

The announcement answered one family mystery, but stoked another.

"All I could think about was, `Oh, I wish grandpa was here for this,'" said Ann Knight of west suburban Lyons, Ill., daughter-in-law of the late "Grandpa Art," who was Thomas Knight's only sibling. "He wanted so much to have closure for this."

In 2001, about two years after Arthur Knight died, Ann Knight began receiving calls from a representative of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), who told her the department may have found Sgt. Thomas Knight's remains in the South Pacific country. The representative asked for Ann Knight's help in finding his blood relatives for DNA tests.

Ann Knight's husband, William, died in 1981. The couple had a son and daughter, but neither is a blood relative of Knight because William Knight was adopted.

Ann Knight provided contact information for relatives of Knight's mother. Over the next few years, the representative would call occasionally and ask for something else. All of that work ended when JPAC matched a relative's found a blood relative and matched that person's DNA with a sample from Knight's remains.

On Monday, the Defense Department announced that it had identified all 10 crew members of the B-24 Liberator that never returned to the aerodrome at Nadzab, New Guinea, after bombing enemy targets near Hollandia on April 16, 1944. Sergeant Thomas G. Knight, a Brookfield, Ill., resident and graduate of Morton High School who had enlisted September 21, 1942, was a 23-year-old gunner on that plane.

He had completed 19 missions, according to certificates and newspaper clippings in the family's scrapbook.

"The aircraft was altering course due to bad weather and was proceeding to the aerodrome at Saidor," a statement from the Defense Department reported, "but it never returned to friendly lines."

A village resident in the Morobe Province of Kunikio Village in Papua, New Guinea, found the wreckage and human remains in late 2001 on a densely wooded hillside in Morobe Province, said Larry Greer, spokesman for the Defense Department's POW/MIA office. Another resident and a member of the armed forces of Papua New Guinea sent a letter notifying the U.S. Embassy there.

JPAC began examining and excavating the site in 2002, Greer said. In the next few months, the crew found ID tags for Knight and four three other crew members and their human remains. Using dental records, other forensic tools, mitochondrial DNA, circumstantial evidence and documents from military archives, the JPAC team and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory was were able to definitively identify identified all 10 members of the crew.

"Each of these is a detective case that has gone cold for 40-60 years," Greer said. "It simply takes that long to develop leads."

Knight's remains and those of his crew members are in JPAC's lab in Hawaii and will be flown to Washington, D.C., where relatives of all the crew will decide whether to bury individual remains at in Arlington National Cemetery, in a cemetery closer to the crewmembers' hometowns or in a national cemetery near those hometowns, Greer said. The military also will present a group funeral and burial at Arlington for fragments of crewmembers' remains that are unidentifiable.

Knight's blood relatives have yet to decide on arrangements, Greer said. Although Ann Knight spoke publicly Tuesday, the other blood relatives also have declined to be interviewed.

Knight's parents died in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Arthur Knight died in 1999. Ann Knight obtained the scrapbook and Knight's letters after Arthur Knight's death.

About half of the scrapbook is dedicated to Sgt. Thomas Knight and includes photos of him in uniform and his lovely, brown-haired girlfriend, Doty. A telegram notifying the family that he was missing, a letter dated Feb. 25, 1946, listing a "presumptive finding of death" and condolences from then-Illinois Gov. Dwight Green are pasted in the pages. The family also held onto his Purple Heart and his letters.

Those letters reveal a perceptive and friendly young man.

"Thanks a million for your thoughtfulness and kindness," he wrote in gratitude for Christmas gifts sent to him in Australia in 1943. "I'm sorry I couldn't send you folks anything for Xmas but time wouldn't permit."

In that same letter, he notes that Australia is similar to the U.S., "but not as modern. They still use a lot of old cars and the women still wear long skirts," he wrote.

In an earlier letter, he noted that he'd just finished one letter to his mother and decided to write another to his brother, Art. Then Sgt. Knight cautions his family against sending air mail, noting that it fails to arrive any sooner and is more expensive.

"So Art might be in the Army pretty soon, huh, well, I think that he will like it," Knight wrote in October 1942. "It isn't as bad as people think. He gets along with people so he won't have any trouble."

He signed all his letters, "Love, Tommy."

Ann Knight's son, Jim Knight, started reading the letters Monday night, trying to appreciate the great-uncle he never met, but also looking for clues to that family mystery. Grandpa Art told relatives that Knight's final flight was a "suicide mission," Jim Knight recalled, a kind of raid that supposedly provided planes with enough fuel to reach a target to bomb, but not enough fuel to return to base.

The Defense Department's Greer said, "We really don't know," what caused the B-24's crash.

Jim Knight is ready to begin researching.

"It would be great to know what actually happened," he said. "There is a huge stack of letters, and I guess I'll take my time and go through all of them."

Illinois State Flag
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal

Norman L. Nell
Staff Sergeant, United States Army Air Corps


Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Service # 17164634
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Missouri
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart 

Relatives don't recall a funeral after Norman L. Nell's plane disappeared during a World War II mission over New Guinea.

His parents in Tarkio kept hoping the 21-year-old airman had survived a storm that downed about three dozen aircraft on April 16, 1944.

But answers about the fate of John and Veda Nell's only child didn't come until long after their deaths. Recently, the remains of Nell, an assistant engineer, and nine other crew members were identified and will be returned to their families for burial.

"They never could come up with what happened to him," said Thelma Woolsey, who graduated from Tarkio High School with Nell in 1941. "It was very sad because it just devastated both of them."

Nell was aboard a B-24 Liberator that crashed as it was returning to the aerodrome at Nadzab, New Guinea, after bombing enemy targets near Hollandia. The aircraft altered course because of bad weather and was flying to the aerodrome at Saidor when it disappeared, the Defense Department said in a statement.

Wreckage of a World War II-era bomber was found in Morobe Province in New Guinea in 2001, according to the Defense Department's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office. A team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command surveyed the site in 2002 and recovered remains as well as identification tags and other objects.

Scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental records, mitochondrial DNA and other tools to identify the remains.

Officials even found Nell's high school class ring, which will be sent to Larry Schreiner, a second cousin of Nell's.

To Schreiner's knowledge, the family never had a funeral.

"They didn't know if he went down in the jungle, they didn't know if he went down in the sea, they didn't know anything," Schreiner said. "But they always had hope that he was alive."

Eventually, hope faded. A headstone rests in a Tarkio cemetery honoring Nell, who wasn't married and had no siblings. Schreiner said he will "absolutely" be in Arlington, Va., in late June when Nell is honored with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. "It's what his mother wanted," Schreiner said.


Relatives don't recall a funeral after Norman L. Nell's plane disappeared during a World War II mission over New Guinea.

His parents in Tarkio, Mo., kept hoping the 21-year-old airman had survived a storm that downed about three dozen aircraft on April 16, 1944.

But answers about the fate of John and Veda Nell's only child didn't come until long after their deaths. Recently, the remains of Nell, an assistant engineer, and nine other crew members were identified and will be returned to their families for burial.

"They never could come up with what happened to him," recalled Thelma Woolsey, who graduated from Tarkio High School with Nell in 1941. "It was very sad because it just devastated both of them."

Nell was aboard a B-24 Liberator that crashed as it was returning to the aerodrome at Nadzab, New Guinea, after bombing enemy targets near Hollandia. The aircraft altered course because of bad weather and was flying to the aerodrome at Saidor when it disappeared, the Defense Department said in a statement.

Wreckage of a World War II-era bomber was found in Morobe Province in New Guinea in 2001, according to the Defense Department's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office. A team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command surveyed the site in 2002 and recovered remains as well as identification tags and other objects.

Scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental records, mitochondrial DNA and other tools to identify the remains.

Officials even found Nell's high school class ring, which will be sent to Larry Schreiner, a second cousin of Nell's.

"Everyone always wondered what happened," Schreiner said Tuesday by phone from his home in Florida. "Now we finally have some closure."

To Schreiner's knowledge, the family never had a funeral.

"They didn't know if he went down in the jungle, they didn't know if he went down in the sea, they didn't know anything," Schreiner said. "But they always had hope that he was alive."

Eventually, hope faded. A headstone rests in a Tarkio cemetery honoring Nell, who wasn't married and had no siblings. Schreiner said he will "absolutely" be in Arlington, Va., in late June when Nell is honored with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. "It's what his mother wanted," Schreiner said.


More than 60 years after his disappearance, Staff Sgt. Norman L. Nell finally will be memorialized.

Nell, of Tarkio, Mo., was only 21 when he disappeared in April 1944 during a World War II mission over New Guinea. He was a U.S. Army crewman on a B-24 Liberator, and his plane was altering course in bad weather and disappeared without a trace — until the wreckage was found in 2001.

Remains of the 10 crewmen had never been identified. Until now.

The U.S. Department of Defense recently announced that remains of the 10 crew members have finally been identified.

“Everyone always wondered what happened,” Larry Schreiner, a second cousin of Nell’s, said Tuesday by phone from his home in Florida. “Now we finally have some closure.”

That was hard to come by in the weeks and months and years after Nell’s disappearance, so much so that — to Schreiner’s knowledge — the family never had a funeral.

“They didn’t know if he went down in the jungle, they didn’t know if he went down in the sea, they didn’t know anything,” Schreiner said. “But they always had hope that he was alive.”

Hope faded, however, and Nell’s family had to move on. His father died in 1948, Schreiner said, and his mother died in 2002 at age 104. Nell was an only child and was unmarried, according to Schreiner.

So Schreiner will “absolutely” be in Arlington, Virginia, in late June when Nell is honored with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. “It’s what his mother wanted,” Schreiner said.

According to the Department of Defense, Nell’s crew had just bombed enemy targets near Hollandia (now called Jayapura) and was returning to the aerodrome at Nadzab, New Guinea. Bad weather forced the aircraft to alter its course, and the crew never returned to friendly lines.

In late 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea notified the Department of Defense that wreckage of a World War II bomber had been found in Morobe province. That set in motion a chain of events that, over several years, led to this week’s formal identification.

Officials even found Nell’s high school class ring, which will be sent to Schreiner.

Schreiner said that he had been in contact with U.S. military officials for years about the wreckage and that he and other family members had provided DNA samples that proved conclusive. He said military officials had given him a report about the incident that answered scores of questions: The aircraft wasn’t shot down but ran out of fuel, for example, and Nell died of blunt-force trauma to the head from the impact of the crash.

“I find it very interesting that the service went to this trouble to find missing-in-action people,” Schreiner said. “This was really something.”

Missouri State Flag
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Blair W. Smith
Staff Sergeant, United States Army Air Corps

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Service # 33135850
403rd Bomber Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, Heavy 
Entered the Service from: Pennsylvania
Died: 25-Feb-46
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines 
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart 

Staff Sgt. Blair W. Smith will be coming home soon.

Smith left his home in NuMine, Armstrong County, a few days after his 22nd birthday to join the Army Air Forces in the early days of World War II.

He died in 1944, when his plane went down on the north coast of what is now Papua New Guinea, the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, north of Australia.

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced Monday that the remains of Smith and nine other crew members have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Sgt. Richard R. Sargent, of North Girard, Erie County, and 2nd Lt. Donald F. Grady, of Harrisburg, also were on the B-24 Liberator that was returning from a bombing raid on what was then known as Hollandia, a Japanese stronghold on the island.

Larry Greer, of the POW/Missing Personnel Office, said the plane was flying to Nadzab, New Guinea, on April 16, 1944, and changed course because of bad weather. The crew was trying to reach an aerodrome at Saidor when the plane went down, he said.

"That's all we know. We don't know if they went down in bad weather or were shot down," said Greer.

The Armstrong County Memorial War Wall outside the courthouse in Kittanning lists Smith as killed in action, but the family didn't know what happened to him, said Earl D. Smith, 47, who lives in his uncle's childhood home on Main Street in Yatesboro, a few miles from NuMine.

"I know my grandmother always waited for him to come back," said Smith, whose late father, Earl G. Smith, was a brother of Blair Smith.

"All my dad knew was that he was missing," Smith said. "They didn't know if he was shot down or a prisoner of war."

The U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea notified Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in late 2001 that wreckage of a World War II bomber had been found.

The site was surveyed several times in 2002 and the identification tags of Smith, Sargent and Grady were located.

"A young lady from the Army called me. I couldn't believe what I was hearing over the phone," Smith said yesterday.

Greer said records show that Blair W. Smith was born on January 13, 1920, and enlisted on January 26, 1942, seven weeks after Pearl Harbor.

He enlisted in the Army Air Forces, the aviation branch of the Army in World War II when there was no separate Air Force.

Smith was the son of Isaac Daniel Smith, who died in a mining accident in the 1930s, and Dora Lloyd Smith, who died in 1960. The couple had four other children -- Earl and Lawrence Smith, Garnet Febringer and Grace McCartan -- who are all deceased.

Before McCartan died, the military was able to obtain a DNA sample to make a positive identification of Smith's remains, Greer said.

Smith's family has not completed funeral arrangements.

"Some other families have made the decision to bury their loved ones in Arlington National Cemetery, but they could bury them in their hometown cemetery, if they wish, and the Army will take care of all expenses," Greer said.

Earl Smith said he is happy the military never stopped trying to find his uncle.

"I only wish my dad and my grandmother could have known," he said. "They never had the chance for closure."

Pennsylvania State Flag
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Air Medal
 
 
 
 

 

Posted: 15 April 2007 Updated: 20 April 2007 Updated: 8 June 2007 Updated: 6 September 2007 Updated: 30 September 2007
Purple Heart Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

NL Nell Gravesite PHOTO

BW Smith Gravesite PHOTO
Photos Courtesy of Holly, September 2007