James D. Cartwright
Sergeant, United States Army Air Force
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Service # 6829091
39th Observation Squadron
Entered the Service from: Missouri
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at East Coast Memorial
New York City, USA
Also see remembrances for fellow crewmembers,
Augustus J. Allen, Second Lieutenant, United States Army, and
More than 60 years after he vanished on the eve of World War II, the family of Army Air Corps Staff Sergeant James D. Cartwright finally knows his fate.
Cartwright, of Los Angeles, and two other servicemen disappeared June 8, 1941, after their observation plane took off from France Field, Panama.
But now, U.S. military officials have positively identified the remains of Cartwright - along with Second Lieutenant Augustus J. Allen of Myrtle Springs, Texas, and Corporal Paul R. Stubbs, of Haverhill, Massachusetts - which were found in a remote part of Panama. They will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
Cartwright's nephew, Russell Cartwright, was just 7 when his uncle, then in his 20s and unmarried, disappeared. He said he was "flabbergasted" when officials contacted him about a month ago and told him his uncle's remains had been found and identified through DNA matching.
"After 60-some years, you would think they would throw it in a file and say, Forget it," said Russell Cartwright, 70, who used to live in Glendale but now resides in Palm Desert.
"But their attitude is: Here's a man who is willing to give his life for his country; he deserves everything you can do for him. I was pretty impressed by the whole thing."
Russell Cartwright's father was one of James Cartwright's five siblings, all of whom have died.
Russell Cartwright is thought to be the oldest living direct relative, although mitrochondrial DNA identification of his uncle's remains were made using a descendant of one of James Cartwright's sisters.
Russell Cartwright's mother, Mildred Freeman, 87, of Sun City, however, is still alive and was happy to finally learn what had happened to her brother-in-law.
"He was a very fine young man," Freeman recalled. "We certainly missed him. It was devastating not to know, and his mother was beside herself - he was her youngest son. They were a lovely family."
The family will be at the funeral for James on November 3, 2005, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
When Cartwright's plane failed to arrive at Rio Hato, Panama, that day in 1941, an air and ground search was launched, but found nothing. It wasn't until April 1999 that a Panamanian citizen told Panamanian Civil Aeronautics officials that he had discovered aircraft wreckage while hunting in the mountains of Panama Province.
After a PCA search and rescue team visited the site, the wreckage was reported to the U.S. Joint Prisoner of War Accounting Command, which sent experts to survey the site in August 1999.
In February 2002, the site was excavated and officials recovered remains and artifacts, which later helped confirm the identity of the missing crew, although officials still don't know why the plane crashed.
Of the 88,000 Americans missing in action from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, 78,000 are from World War II.
Note: Also see remembrances to his fellow crewmembers Augustus J. Allen, Second Lieutenant, United States Army and Paul R. Stubbs, Corporal, United States Army.
Posted: 22 October 2005 Updated: 11 February 2006 Updated: 10 June 2006
Photo Courtesy of Roxsanne Wells-Layton, 10 June 2006