Remains of 9 WWII airmen identified

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Remains of 9 WWII airmen identified - Yahoo! News

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Investigators have identified the remains of nine World War II airmen whose bomber disappeared over Papua New Guinea in 1943, officials said.

The Department of Defense made the announcement Tuesday.

The crash site was found in 2002 after a local government official contacted a team of military investigators exploring an unrelated crash site. The official turned over aircraft data plates, human remains and identification tags.

Investigators spent eight weeks excavating the site and used DNA testing and dental records to identify U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Arthur Armacost III, of Cincinnati; 2nd Lt. Charles Feucht, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio; 1st Lt. William Hafner, of Norfolk, Va.; 2nd Lt. David Eppright, of Warrensburg, Mo.; 2nd Lt. Charles Cisneros, of San Antonio; Technical Sgt. Alfred Hill, of Temple, Okla.; Technical Sgt. James Lascelles, of New York City; Staff Sgt. William Cameron, of Los Angeles; and Staff Sgt. Wilburn Rozzell, of Duncan, Okla.

The men were members of the 63rd Squadron, 43 Bombardment Group and were flying a reconnaissance mission over the Bismarck Sea. Their B-24 Liberator disappeared after attacking a convoy of Japanese ships it had followed.

Armacost, Cameron, Hafner and Lascelles were to be buried Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery, as were the group remains that couldn't be matched specifically to any missing airman. Individual remains of the other five have been buried elsewhere.
Here is some more info I found.

WWII pilot finally home from last mission

Norfolk native Bill Hafner joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. Two years later, his plane went down. He and his crew had been MIA for years. SHER STONEMAN/THE NEWS OBSERVER

By KATE WILTROUT, The Virginian-Pilot
© July 20, 2006

Nearly 63 years after her young husband's plane disappeared after returning from a South Pacific bombing run, Iris Hafner Hilliard now knows two precious details:

He died quickly, and he was wearing the ID bracelet she'd given him so long ago.

On Wednesday, 1st Lt. William Meade Hafner was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Hafner, a Norfolk native, was at the controls of a B-24 Liberator based in the territory of New Guinea in early November 1943.

The 24-year-old had attended the College of William and Mary before joining the Army Air Corps in November 1941, according to family members.

On the night of Nov. 4, 1943, according to the Department of Defense, Hafner and his eight-man crew spotted a convoy of Japanese ships in the Bismarck Sea. The airmen made three direct hits.

At 1:20 a.m., one of Hafner's crew members radioed the airfield and asked for it to turn on its navigation signal.

It was the bomber's last contact.

Iris Hafner, who worked at Norfolk's Navy base, hoped for the best.

"I had every confidence in the fact that we were going to find him," Hafner Hilliard, 88, said Wednesday in a phone interview from Northern Virginia. "He was a very good pilot; he was very dedicated."

In 1946, the Army declared the nine fliers dead. Hafner's family held a memorial service and erected a gravestone for him in the family plot, but there was no body to bury.

Then, in 2002, a New Guinean hunter discovered human bones, dog tags and plane wreckage - with a tail number visible - in a remote, mountainous province.

A year later, the Pentagon sent a recovery team to the site. One of the items found, according to Hafner's brother-in-law, John Brooks, was a clock from the instrument panel that stopped at the likely moment of impact, 1:21 a.m.

Another find: a metal ID bracelet with Hafner's name engraved on it, and a heart-shaped charm Iris had removed from one of her own bracelets and attached to his.

In Massachusetts, Gayle Meade Brooks and her sisters - nieces of Hafner's, born after the pilot's disappearance - submitted DNA samples.

They learned that their uncle's widow was still alive, living in a Raleigh, N.C., retirement home, and resumed contact that had ceased decades ago.

"He was a ghost in two households," Brooks remembers her sister saying.

This spring, military laboratory experts confirmed the find.

On Wednesday, Iris Hafner Hilliard joined about 100 other family members and friends of the downed crew for the burial at Arlington.

Besides a military band and three volleys of gunfire to honor the crew, a B-52 bomber buzzed the cemetery.

"No one could ask for better," Hafner Hilliard said of the ceremony.

The twice-widowed woman once again has her first husband's bracelet in her possession.

"I don't intend to wear it," she said.

"He had it on when he died, and that is sacred to me. I'm going to keep it just like it is."

Note - the attached picture of the woman reading the letters has this text
"Iris Hafner Hilliard looks through old letters written by her husband, Bill Hafner. She saved all his letters. Hafner was declared missing in action."


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