Final flight: Bone fragments from WWII air crash victims heading home

The remains of American airmen whose planes crashed over the Himalayas during World War II were finally heading home on Wednesday. The tiny bone fragments, said to be barely enough to fill a zip-up sandwich bag, were handed over to the U.S. military in a solemn ceremony. “This is a sad duty, but it means a great deal,” said defense secretary Ash Carter, who watched the handover in New Delhi. “Those guys whose remains are in those coffins would have wanted that, and would be proud and happy to be home, and their families too.”

To have something that they can put in a casket and know that this was Grandpa Joe and they can bring to a cemetery of their choice and have buried with military honours is closure for them

Gary Stark, US defence official

The remains are thought to be those of one or two of the 12 airmen who died when a B-24 bomber and a military transport plane that crashed on supply runs from India to China in 1944. They were recovered after a major search in mountainous jungles in Arunachal Pradesh state in northeastern India. The recovery party spent three days hiking across treacherous terrain to the crash site in September. They spent eight hours a day combing the site for remains, which are being flown to Hawaii for DNA testing.

It was very physically grueling to go to this particular area and to conduct this recovery.

Marine Capt Greg Lynch