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India Repatriates Remains of US Airmen from World War II

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter thanks Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency troops after an April 13, 2016, ceremony in New Delhi to repatriate the remains of airmen who crashed in India during World War II. (Photo by Adrian Cadiz/U.S. Defense Department)
    Defense Secretary Ash Carter thanks Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency troops after an April 13, 2016, ceremony in New Delhi to repatriate the remains of airmen who crashed in India during World War II. (Photo by Adrian Cadiz/U.S. Defense Department)
  • A consolidated B-24 Liberator of the 15th A.F. releases its bombs on the railyards at Muhldorf, Germany on 19 March 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo)
    A consolidated B-24 Liberator of the 15th A.F. releases its bombs on the railyards at Muhldorf, Germany on 19 March 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The government of India on Wednesday repatriated the possible remains of American airmen from World War II, the U.S. Defense Department announced.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter participated in the repatriation ceremony in New Delhi for the remains that are believed to be those of two American crews whose planes crashed on supply runs from India to China over the Himalayan Mountains in 1944 and 1945.

The remains recovered late last year are possibly associated with a B-24 crash on Jan. 25, 1944, when a crew of eight personnel assigned to the 14th Air Force, 308th Bomb Group, were lost during a routine mission from Kunming, China, to Chabua, India, according to a press release from the Pentagon.

Two bone fragments -- small enough to fit inside a sandwich bag -- along with some other artifacts from the B-24 flight were found during a U.S. excavation in the rugged mountain in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, according to the Associated Press and the Pentagon.

Another set of remains that were also turned over to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency are possibly related to a C-109 that crashed on July 17, 1945, traveling from Jorhat, India, to Hsinching, China, with a four-man Army Air Force crew, according to the Pentagon release.

The ceremony sponsored by the Defense Department, the U.S. embassy in New Delhi and the government of India highlights the nation’s commitment to bringing fallen personnel home “and providing their families the fullest possible accounting,” the release states.

“It's also a testament to the deepening U.S-India defense partnership and a reflection of our shared commitment to universal values,” it states. “Secretary Carter is grateful for the Indian Government’s support for this important humanitarian mission and looks forward to cooperating on future personnel accounting operations.”

Afterward, the U.S. military flew the remains to the agency’s lab in Honolulu for DNA analysis to confirm the identify of the missing crew members.

An estimated 350 U.S. service members are still classified as missing in India, the Associated Press reported.

--Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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