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Remains confirmed as airman from Ohio, not local man

Related stories:
Aug. 25, 2007, story: Remains found on glacier
Seattle author Peter Stekel's Web site

A body tied to a 66-year-old World War II mystery has been positively identified as that of an airman from Ohio, his family confirmed today.

Ernest “Glenn” Munn was 23 when he was killed in a military plane crash on the Mendel Glacier, at the 13,600-foot level of Evolution Basin in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada mountains.

Also killed in that crash was John M. Mortenson, 25, of Moscow, Idaho.

When the mummified remains were found last August by Seattle author Peter Stekel, it was not immediately known if the body was that of Munn or Mortensen.

Mortensen’s remains and those of 2nd Lt. William A. Gamber, who was the pilot, still have not been located.

The four young U.S. Army Air Force aviation cadets were aboard an AT-7 Navigator that crashed during a snowstorm on Nov. 18, 1942, near the California-Nevada border.

The body Stekel found last summer had been entombed in the glacier but became partially exposed because of a significant snow-melt during last year’s drought in California. A search of the area turned up small pieces of metal debris, believed to be parts of the aircraft.


The remains were taken to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command’s forensic laboratory — called JPAC — at Hickam Air Force Base in Oahu, Hawaii.

Munn’s sister, 87-year-old Jeanne Pyle, of St. Clairsville, Ohio, confirmed today that she and two other surviving sisters, Sara Zetyer, 85, of Adena, Ohio, and Lois Shriver, 83, of Pittsburg, were notified on Friday by military officials.

“I was so shook up I couldn’t speak for a time,” Pyle said. “Now, we are all so thrilled we can bring closure to this.”

Pyle said she and her two sisters plan to bury their brother in Ohio in a military funeral as soon as his remains are released by the military, probably sometime in the next few weeks.

Military identification experts took blood samples from her and Zeyer in 2005 after another body was found in the same area of Evolution Basin. That body was identified as aviation cadet Leo A. Mustonen, 22, of Brainerd, Minn.

Stekel, who’s writing a book on the World War II mystery, said today that he intends to return to California this summer.

“I plan to return to the crash site again next summer and fall to continue my research,’’ he said. “I don’t want to hold out false hope for the Gamber and Mortenson families, but I also don’t want to give up on searching until I’m confident there is nothing else to find.’’

“I can’t express how happy I am for the Munn family,’’ the author said from his Seattle home.

Stekel said he appreciates the hard work of the forensic anthropologists and other JPAC scientists who work to identify bodies of missing soldiers.

“Across all cultures, people care deeply about what happens to their bodies after death,’’ the author said. “It is our duty to ensure that these men are treated with the respect that we, ourselves, would expect. JPAC succeeds admirably at this task."

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