Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lab identifies 7 WWII remains from Alaska

Advertiser Staff

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base has identified the remains of seven Navy air crewmen whose plane crashed on a Japanese-held island off Alaska in 1942, the Department of Defense announced Tuesday.

The remains, recovered in 2003, are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors. They had been listed as missing in action.

Personnel from the Hawai'i unit excavated the crash site on the slope of Kiska Volcano in August 2003. The JPAC team found a wooden burial marker, leading it to the remains buried nearby. Subsequent JPAC laboratory analysis resulted in individual identifications of all seven crewmembers.

The seven-man crew was aboard a Navy PBY-5 Catalina that took off from Kodiak Island, Alaska, on June 14, 1942, to attack Japanese targets in Kiska Harbor. The plane crashed after encountering heavy anti-aircraft fire and bad weather.

In August 1943, the U.S. retook Kiska Island from the Japanese. The crew's remains were buried in a common grave. Its location was subsequently lost and the remains of all seven were declared to be nonrecoverable until 2002, when a wildlife biologist found the wreckage of a World War II aircraft on the slope of Kiska Volcano.

The crew members were identified as Ensign Leland L. Davis of Jackson, Miss.; Ensign Robert F. Keller of Wichita, Kan.; Seaman 2nd Class Elwin Alford of Bogalusa, La.; Seaman 2nd Class Dee Hall of Syria, Okla.; Aviation Machinist Mate John H. Hathaway of Lafayette, Ind.; Aviation Radioman 2nd Class Robert A. Smith of Glen Dive, Mont.; and Aviation Pilot 3rd Class Albert J. Gyorfi of Wilbur, Wash.