The remains of seven American servicemen missing in action from World War II have been found in Russia, identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors. A group burial of the remains will be held at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, Nov. 20.
The seven Navy aircrew members are identified as Lt. Walter S. Whitman Jr. of Philadelphia, Pa.; Lt. j.g. John W. Hanlon Jr. of Worcester, Mass.; Petty Officer 2nd Class Clarence C. Fridley of Manhattan, Mont.; Petty Officer 2nd Class Donald G. Lewallen of Omaha, Neb.; Petty Officer 2nd Class Jack J. Parlier of Decatur Ill.; Petty Officer 3rd Class Samuel L. Crown Jr. of Columbus, Ohio and Petty Officer 3rd Class James S. Palko of Superior, Wis.
On March 25, 1944, Whitman and his crew took off in their PV-1 Ventura bomber from their base on Attu Island, Alaska, headed for enemy targets in the Kurile Islands of Japan. The aircraft was part of a five-plane flight which encountered heavy weather throughout the entire mission. About six hours into the mission, the base at Attu notified Whitman by radio of his bearing. There was no further contact with the crew. When Whitman’s aircraft failed to return, an over water search was initiated by surface ships and aircraft in an area extending 200 miles from Attu, but no wreckage was found.
In January 2000, representatives of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs received a report from a Russian citizen who had discovered wreckage in 1962 of a U.S. aircraft on the Kamchatka peninsula on the east coast of Russia. Later that year, specialists from the Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI), along with members of the commission, found the wreckage and some human remains.
The following year, the team returned to the crash site to conduct an excavation. They recovered additional remains, artifacts and aircrew-related items which correlated to the names on the manifest of the PV-1.
Between 2001-2003, CILHI scientists employed a wide range of forensic identification techniques, including that of mitochondrial DNA, to confirm the identity of crewmembers. More than 78,000 servicemen are missing in action from World War II.