KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The Malaysian government on Thursday returned to U.S. custody human remains recovered from the crash of a U.S. military transport plane in 1945.
A wooden box containing remains from the crash site was handed over to an American military team at an airport ceremony attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The box was placed inside a larger medal container by the Americans, a U.S. flag placed over it, and the container was then carried aboard a U.S. C-17 cargo plane for a flight to Hawaii. A Defense Department lab will attempt to identify them.
U.S. officials declined to name the individuals associated with the remains or say how many sets of remains were recovered. It has been widely known for years that the only three servicemen aboard the C-47B cargo plane were Judson Baskett, William H. Myers and Donald E. Jones. The three were presumed to have died but have been listed ever since as missing in action.
The aircraft crashed on a mountain slope while flying from Singapore to an airfield in Penang, Malaysia, on Nov. 27, 1945, just months after the conclusion of World War II.
The exact cause of the crash is unclear.
The Pentagon says 50 U.S. military members are still listed as missing in action in Malaysia. The remains from the Nov. 27, 1945, crash of the U.S. Army Air Force C-47B cargo plane are the first to be recovered in Malaysia. Pentagon officials say more U.S. excavation efforts with the Malaysian military are expected.
The wreckage of the C-47B cargo plane was spotted from the air as far back as 1966, but the Pentagon did not undertake a recovery effort until recently.
In a May 2012 news story about the case, the Knoxville News Sentinel quoted a nephew of William H. Myers as saying Myers’ mother, Edith R. Myers, had unsuccessfully pushed for years for a U.S. military search mission in Malaysia. The nephew, Bill H. Myers of Knoxville, told the paper that Edith Myers died in 1973 not knowing for certain what had happened to her son.
The Pentagon’s Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency conducts excavations around the world in search of remains of U.S. servicemen missing from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. The agency was recently reorganized and renamed following years of criticism by MIA family advocacy groups that call the Pentagon’s remains recovery and identification efforts weak and ill-managed.