Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Family History Out in the Cold--Again

It's been almost two years since we reported on the discovery of the body of an airman in California's Sierra Nevada. The airman was later identified as 22 year-old aviation cadet Leo Mustonen of Brainerd, Minnesota. He and three other airmen were on a training mission from Mather Field near Sacramento on November 18, 1942, when their aircraft disappeared. The bodies of the other three airmen were not recovered in 2005.

The body of Aviation Cadet Leo Mustonen is handled with honors at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. (Department of Defense Photo by Sgt. Michael Caya, U.S. Army)

This week, the story took another turn:

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A 1923 buffalo nickel, an old Army uniform and a crumbly wallet with faded photographs might help investigators figure out exactly which missing World War II airman's remains are lying in the county morgue in Fresno.

But it will probably come down to something more modern and foolproof - DNA matching.

The remains of what is believed to be the second of four crewmen who died on a 1942 training flight were found by hikers last week on a remote Sierra mountainside in Kings Canyon National Park. The body was taken by helicopter and coroner's van to the morgue Monday.

Read the rest of the story here.

The three missing airmen are 2nd Lt. William Gamber, 23, of Fayette, Ohio; and aviation cadets John Mortenson, 25, of Moscow, Idaho; Ernest Munn, 23, of St. Clairesville, Ohio.
As before, the identification will be done by the Central Identification Laboratory of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. JPAC has world-class personnel and uses the best available science to perform its sensitive mission. Its facility in Hawaii is the largest forensic anthropology laboratory in the world. Hopefully, another family is about to get closure.

You Can Help
There are over 35,000 Americans still missing but deemed recoverable from World War II. The Government is committed to bringing closure to their families as well as the families of missing servicemembers from other conflicts. DNA samples contributed by family members will aid in the identification process. If your family stories include the lore of a loved one who never returned from war, it may not be too late to help write the end of the story. See the JPAC website for information on how to contribute a DNA sample.

1 comment:

Janice said...


What an amazing story. I urge any relatives of MIAs to please produce a DNA sample in order to provide information for future generations.