For more than half a century, Jeanne Pyle was suspended in the mystery of what had happened to her brother after the Army airman's training flight disappeared over the Sierra Nevada.
She finally has her answer.
"We'd been thinking, wondering, wishing that we'd find out in our lifetime," Pyle, 87, said. Her older brother, Ernest Glenn Munn, was identified this week as one of the four servicemen whose AT-7 Navigator vanished after taking off from Sacramento on Nov. 18, 1942. He was 23 at the time.
"We're just glad we can see him finally put to rest," said Pyle, an Ohio resident whose two sisters are also in their 80s. "Our mother died at 102 without knowing, though friends say she probably found out because she and Glenn have reconnected in heaven."
The military's announcement, coming after more than seven long months of forensic work matched DNA from Munn's mummified remains with his family members, was something of a replay. Backpackers in 2005 discovered a set of frozen remains near the crash site that were later identified as fellow cadet Leo M. Mustonen. Two years later and 100 feet apart, an author researching a book on the doomed flight found the remains that now have been identified as Munn's.
So the 66-year-long waiting game continues for the relatives of the final two crew members, pilot Lt. William Gamber and aviation cadet John Melvin Mortensen. Though some plane wreckage was found in 1947, the disappearance
has haunted all the families for decades.
"I was hoping this would be our time for closure," said Lois Shriver, Munn's youngest sister, who now lives in Pennsylvania. "But I'd tell the other families to never give up hope."
"It's hard to believe we have to keep going through this, knowing my cousin and one other serviceman are still left out there," said Dick Christian, Gamber's younger cousin. "We're happy for Munn's family, but Bill's still up there in the mountains. I think they'll find him eventually."
Peter Stekel, the Seattle author who discovered Munn's mummy, said Tuesday he plans to return to the Mendel Glacier in Kings Canyon National Park where the two airmen's remains were discovered. This time, he plans to carry along a lightweight metal detector and a black light to search for radium that may still be inside the plane's instrument panels.
Stekel said he was both thrilled and motivated by this week's announcement.
"I knew that one of the three remaining families was going to get great news," he said. "It didn't matter to me who got identified - I'd have been equally happy. It's just neat to be able to supply answers to questions people have been trying to know for so long.
"And it motivates me to go back up there and start looking again for the other two guys."