Tags: US | WWII | Veteran | Burial

Burial Set for WWII Airman Missing since 1944

Friday, 27 Sep 2013 10:00 PM

 

  Comment  |
   Contact  |
  Print   |
    A   A  
  Copy Shortlink

The partial remains of a World War II pilot who crashed over a Pacific Ocean island nearly 70 years ago will be buried Saturday with full military honors in Utah.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Vernal J. Bird disappeared over Papua New Guinea on a 1944 bombing run of Japanese airfields there. He was 25.

The crash site was located 12 years ago, but it wasn't until this summer that the Air Force was able to identify partial remains found there as belonging to Bird.

Those remains — only a single leg bone was recovered — arrived Wednesday inside a flag-draped casket on an airliner at Salt Lake City International Airport.

Relatives are hoping a full excavation of the crash site will yield more remains, Lorna Bird Snyder, the airman's niece, told The Associated Press.

The Air Force is moving cautiously because a 500-pound unexploded bomb is still attached to the A-20G Havoc bomber.

The remains of Bird's co-pilot, Staff Sgt. Roy Davis from New Hampshire, have not been found.

Bird had 13 siblings but only one survives, Snyder said. Elaine Bird Jack, 92, of Eugene, Ore., is in Utah for Saturday's burial at Evergreen Cemetery in Springville.

Jack provided a DNA sample that was used to identify her brother's fibula, the outer and thinner of the two long bones of a lower leg.

The crash site on a forested mountainside was discovered in 2001 by a Papuan national, who delivered the fibula along with engine identification plates of the bomber to an American recovery team.

The Air Force identified the bone as Bird's in July.

In the airman's last letter to his family, he described how he flew his light bomber barely above tree-top level, saying "we fly right in the leaves at times." It was written two days before his bomber went down March 12, 1944.

His niece spent years researching where — over the Pacific Ocean or New Guinea — his plane might have gone down. She compared boxes of the airman's letters against records of the American-Australian effort against the Japanese.

If not for Snyder's dogged efforts, the recovered bone might never have gotten a DNA comparison.

Vernal Bird was born Oct. 29, 1918, in Lindon to Walter F. and Christina Pearsson Ash Bird. He attended schools in Lindon and Pleasant Grove. The family later moved to Springville, another Utah County town, according to an obituary.

About 150 distant relatives showed up at the Salt Lake airport to witness the arrival of his casket. None of them knew the man personally; his younger sister is the only one who has a distant memory of him, Snyder said.

But relatives never forgot him, and they kept the airman's smiling portrait among family mementos.

"My parents of course loved him," Snyder said. "They instilled in us that Vernal was an honorable, brave, intelligent young man. We loved his picture."

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  Comment  |
   Contact  |
  Print   |
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York Bans After Health Report

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 14:24 PM

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration said on Wednesday it will ban hydraulic fracturing in the state after a long . . .

Oil-Producing States Feel Pinch of Falling Prices

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 13:38 PM

The skydiving price of gasoline is good news for drivers across the country, but it's causing headaches for budget direc . . .

Obama Closes Alaska's Bristol Bay to Oil, Gas Interests

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 12:06 PM

President Barack Obama used his executive authority on Tuesday to designate the federal waters of Alaska's Bristol Bay o . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved