WWII Army air crew returns home for final rest

More than 75 family members and friends of 11 soldiers listed as missing in action since World War II gathered at Arlington National Cemetery December 11, 1998 to give the veterans a proper burial.

Being interred were the remains of Army Technical Sergeant Delmar Dotson; First Lieutenant Howard G. Eberly; Staff Sergeant Joseph Ferrailio; Staff Sergeant Watson C. Hall; Sergeant Arthur Jingozian; Staff Sergeant Theodore J. McCartney; Sergeant Jennings B. Messer; Technical Sergenant Peter S. Owens; Second Lieutenant Charles E. Ranker; Second Lieutenant George L. Stacy; and Second Lieutenant Edgar L. Townsend Jr.

The men were members of the 65th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group, the crew of a B-17F aircraft last seen September 15, 1943, flying over the Owen Stanley Mountains in southern New Guinea, according to a release from Shari Lawrence, media relations officer with the U.S. Total Army Personnel Command.

The crew was returning from an air strike over Lae, southeastern New Guinea. As their aircraft approached the mountain ridge, it peeled up and out to the left from the formation to avoid a thunderhead. When sight of the aircraft was lost, efforts were made to contact Eberly by radio, but no contact was ever established.

Searches were conducted September 15 and 16, 1943, but neither the aircraft nor any of its crew were found. The crew was listed as “Missing in Action/Body Not Recovered.”

On October 9, 1992, The U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii, received a message from the U.S. Defense Attache Office in Port Moresby that reported the discovery  of a World War II aircraft crash site in the mountains near the Watut River.

The report included information about human remains and an identification bracelet inscribed with the name Howard Eberly, who was the pilot of the missing plane. Another identification tag inscribed with the name Edgar L. Townsend Jr., was also found at the site.

The aircraft was so badly broken up that its specific type could not be identified.

Upon the receiving the message, CILHI deployed a search-and-recovery team to conduct an investigation and excavate the site, which was done from August 4 to September 3, 1993.

The excavation recovered of human remains and personal effects, including four ID tags, one ID bracelet and three rings with engravings in each. The ID tags and bracelet provided three name associations — Eberly, Townsend and Hall.

After completing their research, the CILHI concluded that the wreckage was that of the missing B-17 that had been reported lost because of bad weather September 15, 1943.

The identifications of these soldiers were completed in November 1998.



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