Salem-News.com - March 11, 2008 - 9:10 am
Airman Missing Since 1942 is Identified (VIDEO)Tim King Salem-News.com
Ernest Munn was one of four men aboard a routine navigation training flight that departed Mather Field, California, on November 18th 1942.
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. Army Air Forces airman, missing since 1942, have been identified and will soon be returned to his family for burial.
Cadet Munn's sister, Jeanne Pyle of St Clairesville, Ohio, says she will send Salem-News.com a high quality photo of her brother. She said, "There is a large one that we will use to set on his casket at the service."
She is one of countless people who lost a loved one during the second world war. Even today, locating a crashed airplane in vast remote area can be more than a daunting task. Sometimes they are never located. Sometimes as in this case, even locating the wreckage does not guarantee the return of the fallen aviator.
We will have more from Jeanne tomorrow, hopefully learning something about what it was like to have her brother fail to return from a training mission in the early period of the U.S. involvement in WWII.
Representatives from the Army say they met with Ernest Munn's next-of-kin to explain the recovery and identification process, and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the Secretary of the Army.
Ernest Glenn Munn was one of four men aboard a routine navigation training flight that departed Mather Field, California, on November 18th 1942.
Their AT-7 Navigator aircraft carried about five hours of fuel, and when the plane did not return to base, a search was initiated. It was suspended about a month later with no results.
In the late 1940's, several hikers on Darwin Glacier in the Sierra Nevada mountain range discovered the wreckage of the AT-7 aircraft. Fragmentary, skeletal remains found at the site were buried as a group in the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.
Then in October 2005, other hikers in the Sierra Nevada's discovered frozen human remains, circumstantial evidence and personal effects of an aircrew member.
In 2007, two other hikers found human remains near the 2005 discovery site. Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA in the identification of a second individual from the 1942 crew, Cadet Ernest G. Munn.
The person who discovered the remains is featured in the video clip below. Peter Stekel of Washington, (see Final Flight: the book) says he did not expect to discover another missing aviator when he visited the site, but this discovery allowed the fallen Cadet Munn's three sisters to have closure, even if it came so many years later.
Stekel says it is a is such a story of human proportions that continue to command news headlines and capture the imagination of readers everywhere.
He says the flight in 1942 was under the command of US Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William Gamber. The flight departed Sacramento, California on a routine training flight.
"The pilot and his three student aviation cadets were never seen again," Stekel says.
"Wreckage found in 1947 in a remote area of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks was confirmed as
A 1948 recovery team lead by Captain Roy Sulzbacher returned empty-handed, he says.
"Everything was forgotten until October, 2005, when climbers found the mummified body of an aviator embedded within Mendel Glacier. Five months later the 'Ice Man' was identified as Leo Mustonen, one of Lt. Gamber's cadets and the story was forgotten again."
Stekel says that during his August, 2007 expedition to Mendel Glacier, he was surprised to find another one of Lt. Gamber's crew of students.
On Friday, February 8th, the family of Cadet Ernest Glenn Munn was notified by the US military Repatriation Department that Ernest Glenn Munns was the person Stekel found last summer.
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