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From My Neck of the Woods: Body of WWII Airman Found In Glacier

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Bloviating Zeppelin: From My Neck of the Woods: Body of WWII Airman Found In Glacier

Bloviating Zeppelin

(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

From My Neck of the Woods: Body of WWII Airman Found In Glacier

FRESNO, Calif. - A glacier-encased body believed to be a World War II airman who crashed into the Sierra Nevada in 1942 was flown off the mountain and into a Fresno laboratory for identification, the county's deputy coroner said Thursday.

Blustery conditions kept rangers at Kings Canyon National Park from reaching the frozen remains for two days after two ice climbers reported last weekend they had seen a man's head, shoulder and arm protruding from the thick ice. About 80 percent of the body was buried in the glacier on the side of the 13,710-foot Mount Mendel.

The remote wilderness area can only be reached by hiking two or three days, or by helicopter when the weather allows, rangers said.

Six park rangers and a military forensics expert started chipping away at the ice on Wednesday, freeing the body after about six hours of meticulous work, said ranger Alexandra Picavet.

"The body barely got out before dark hit," said Picavet, explaining the experts were able to free the body faster than she expected. "The ice initially wasn't bad to dig through, but then as they got deeper it became more difficult."

The crew had to be careful not to damage the remains, and that made the work slow because they didn't know how the body was positioned, Picavet said.

The remains were then flown to the Fresno County Coroner's department.

Deputy Coroner Robert Glasbie said local experts are planning to work with officials from the Joint Prisoner of War Accounting Command, which recovers and identifies missing military personnel. The team will include a forensic anthropologist and a pathologist, who will determine the body's state, Glasbie said.

Park officials summoned the military agency because the man was still wearing a parachute with the word "Army" stenciled onto it. They believe the serviceman may be part of the crew of an AT-7 navigational training plane that crashed on the mountain on Nov. 18, 1942. Several military planes crashed among the craggy peaks in the 1930s and 1940s, and many are still missing.

The wreckage was initially spotted by a climber in 1947. It's impossible to tell if this body is really connected to that expedition until experts go through the identification process, which will include a thorough examination of the clothing and a search for any documents that may have survived the decades, and may include dental records, X-rays or DNA testing, experts said.

Experts said the body was probably not seen for decades because the desolate landscape doesn't attract many casual visitors, through it is popular with ice climbers. The finding surprised Michael Nozel, one of the climbers who first located the body on Sunday.

"It was quite a windy day and I could see the fluttering of the parachute and that was the first thing that kind of caught my eye," Nozel told KFSN, a local ABC television affiliate. "As I got closer, I started to think, gosh, that doesn't look like a rock sticking out of the glacier. And I thought at first ... no, even though it does look like a body, I don't think that's what it is. And then of course, as I got closer, I thought, my goodness I think that is a body."

Military officials said there are 88,000 Americans still missing from past wars, most of them, 78,000, from World War II. Only about 35,000 are deemed recoverable.

Officials with JPAC said they have located and identified remains found in glaciers before. The last one was a Cold War-era serviceman found in Greenland.

Bob Mann, the deputy scientific director with the command's Central Identification Laboratory, said sometimes remains found in glaciers are reasonably well preserved. Often even soft tissue like skin can keep well in icy conditions.

Glaciers are living things, Mann said, slowly melting around the edges and grinding over rock as they move, and sometimes leaving behind long-hidden secrets like this one.

The agency processes hundreds of cases a year, and has an average of two identifications a week, said spokeswoman Rumi Nielson-Green.

"To those families, those are the ones that count," she said.

My father, who is 85, recently told me of an airman who crashed into a mountain during training in World War II.

I wonder. . .I think I'll give my dad a call.


Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

10 20 05

Wow! What a crazy story, it shows that in the end justice will be done. It will be good to identify the remains, so that this patriot will get the burial that he needs. His family, if they are still around will also get a sense of closure from this. Your posts are excellent:)

Thu Oct 20, 04:05:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Why, thank you most kindly. I still have to call up Dad. It was so strange -- he just got through telling me his story about this a few days ago. How odd that the airman would now be found at this point. Synergy? Synchronicity? I must find out if Dad may have known the man, and if this is where the airman HE knew went down during training.

Thu Oct 20, 09:15:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

10 21 05

Hey BloZep:
Thx for the info about Costco and Star Trek! Cool! I will check it out. My favorite episode ever was from DS9 season 6:"In the Pale Moonlight", when Garrack and Captain Sisko work together to bring the Romulans into the war. How insane! I love it! Thx BloZep and have a good weekend :)

Fri Oct 21, 08:50:00 AM PDT  

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