FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Mountain backpackers have
discovered remains believed to be those of a missing World War II
airman resting atop a glacier near where an aviation cadet's body was
found two years ago, authorities said Monday.
second set of human remains was found in an alpine region of Kings
Canyon National Park in the Sierra Nevada range on Wednesday, as little
as 50 feet from where climbers spotted the ice-entombed body of Leo
Mustonen in October 2005, park officials said.
anthropologists plan to analyze the largely decomposed body, which they
believe could be one of three men who was flying with Mustonen when
their AT-7 navigational trainer plane disappeared after takeoff from a
Sacramento airfield on Nov. 18, 1942.
board were Mustonen, of Brainerd, Minn.; pilot William Gamber, 23; and
aviation cadets John Mortenson, 25, and Ernest Munn, 23, of St.
Clairsville, Ohio. A blizzard is believed to have caused the crash.
four were given a military funeral in Golden Gate National Cemetery in
San Bruno, but for decades the servicemen's families have struggled to
find closure. Mustonen was laid to rest in his hometown last year.
officials planned to notify families of the three men Monday, said
Robert Mann, deputy scientific adviser for the Joint POW-MIA Accounting
Command, which concluded in February 2006 that the first body was
Rangers located the body exposed
on a remote rock glacier between granite boulders, his undeployed
parachute, stenciled "US ARMY," just inches away. The Air Force was
part of the Army until 1947.
"It looks like
his head was just resting on the rock," said Debbie Brenchley, the
first ranger to see the remains Friday after the backpackers reported
the find. "You can see he has a wool sweater on, and a white collar and
a ring on."
Icy storms and constant glacial
movement had hampered park officials' efforts to find additional
survivors of the crash of the training flight over California's Central
Last year's light snowfall left some areas bare of ice, and the melting snowpack revealed the body, rangers said.
writer working on a book about the failed flight came across the
skeleton as he and a friend searched the granite peaks for the plane's
engine, rangers said.
"We've scoured the area
over the last few years," said J.D. Swed, chief park ranger. "We're
confident that there isn't anything else to be found there - for the
Within a couple of months, forensic
anthropologists will determine the downed airman's race and age at time
of death by looking at the teeth and bones, Mann said. They will then
extract DNA from the remains and compare it to genetic samples from the
blood lines of the three missing men to confirm the man's identity, he
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