It took 73 years to bury the mortal remains of Lieutenant Robert Eugene Oxford who fought in the World War II.
Oxford, along with seven Army Air Corps members of the United States, went down in a B-24J aircraft known as ‘Hot as Hell’ in India’s northeast state Arunachal Pradesh during the World War II in 1944.
The remains arrived at Atlanta’s Airport on June 8 this year with a military honour guard. It was transported by car under police escort to 1st Lt Oxford’s home county of Pike County, Georgia, where the mortal remains was buried, the Arunachal Times reported.
It was a mystery ever since the winter of 1944. A search operation in the deep hilly terrain by the members from the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency of US have found some of the remains which were being suspected of those aviators in 2015.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the organizers invited the public to line the eight-mile funeral route on Sunday afternoon with flags and yellow ribbons.
“Oxford’s parents, Charles and Bessie Oxford, are no longer living, but they placed a memorial marker and reserved a burial plot at tiny Magnolia Cemetery in Concord, Ga,” said the report.
The DPAA is an agency within the US department of defence, which works to recover missing personnel listed as prisoners of war or missing in action from all past wars and conflicts from around the globe.
Eleven days into the excavation, the team made an uplifting discovery as they unearthed potential evidence of the aviators they were searching for. The sense of accomplishment and excitement permeated throughout the team members as the possibility of identifying one of the missing was a close reality, said DPAA/MIA.
The 13 members of DPAA/MIA had started their operation on October 2, 2015 with a 10-mile hike through treacherous terrain which was located at nearly 10,000 feet height in the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh which borders Bhutan and China controlled Tibet. Their operation continued for 35 days before the team went back to the US for further action.
“It really was an incredible experience and an unforgettable success being able to bring back remains and other evidence which hopefully will be identified as belonging to one or more of our unaccounted-for service members from WWII,” said anthropologist Dr Meghan-Tomisita Cosgriff-Hernandez in DPAA/MIA website.
The plane, B-24J, nick-named as ‘Hot as Hell’ was assigned to the 308th bomb group of 425th Bombardment Squadron. The aircraft took off from Kunming airfield in China on a routine flight to Chabua airfield in India. While on its way to cover a distance of 1,400 kilometres, the plane went missing in 1944.
All the crew members, later, were declared dead. The wreckage was located on December 7 in 2006 for the first time by Clayton Kuhles in Arunachal Pradesh.
Following the requests of Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action in 2009, the Indian government allowed the US agency to carry out a search in Arunachal Pradesh.
But due to numerous reasons, especially due to inclement weather conditions, the US agency could not successfully conduct the operations.
Major Waggoner said that over the next six years, turmoil and security concerns in Arunachal Pradesh precluded the US agency from obtaining approval from the Indian government to resume recovery operations.
It is believed that more than 400 American airmen are missing in this part of the country during the World War II as this area was one of the major routes during that time.