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American aviators missing from WWII and Vietnam identified for burial

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The Pentagon has announced that it has accounted for several servicemen who have been missing since World War II and the Vietnam War.

Two Marines and an Army Air Forces pilot missing in action from World War II as well as two Air Force aviators missing from the Vietnam War have been returned to family members for burial, according to the POW/Missing Personnel Office.

Marine Corps Capt. Henry S. White, 23, of Kansas City, Mo., and Staff Sgt. Thomas L. Meek, 19, of Lisbon, La., will be buried in a single casket representing the two servicemen, on October 18, 2013, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, the Pentagon said.

White and Meek were in an SBD-4 Dauntless dive-bomber that departed Espiritu Santo Island, New Hebrides, on a night training mission and failed to return on July 21, 1943, the military said. Four years later, an Army team examined a crash site on Mavea Island but did not recover any remains.

However, decades later, in 2012, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team searched and excavated the crash site again, this time finding some remains of the airmen as well as captain's bars, an ID with Meek's name and service number, and other evidence. The military could not individually identify the remains, which is why they are being buried in a single casket.

Army Air Force 1st Lt. Robert G. Fenstermacher, 23, of Scranton, Pa., will also be buried on October 18 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Fenstermacher was a pilot of a P-47D Thunderbolt on a recon mission to German on December 26, 1944, when he crashed near Petergensfeld, Belgium, the Pentagon said. An American officer saw the crash and actually made it to the burning wreckage in time to grab Fenstermacher's dog tags. His remains were not recovered, and the military declared him killed in action.

After the war, the Army tried to find the wreckage but wasn't able to find the crash site.

But in 2012, some local historians excavated a private yard in Petergensfeld and found human remains and the wreckage or a P-47D. They turned over the remains to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which used circumstantial evidence and dental comparisons to match the remains to Fenstermacher.

Air Force Lt. Col. Robert E. Pietsch, 31, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Maj. Louis F. Guillermin, 25, of West Chester, Pa., were buried in a single casket on October 16 at Arlington National Cemetery. Guillermin's individual remains were also buried October 5, in Broomall, Pa.

Guillermin and Pietsch were flying a reconnaissance mission when their A-26A Invader aircraft crashed in Laos on April 30, 1968. The military was not able to find them and they were listed as missing in action.

In 1994, a joint team from the United States and Laos found the crash site, recovered some human remains and evidence, but couldn't fully search the area because of live explosives.

Then in 2006, a team returned with the help of an explosives-disposal unit, which cleared the site. The team found more human remains and evidence.

Analyzing the remains, scientists identified Guillermin through mitochondrial DNA. The rest of the remains were not individually identified, but correspond to both Pietsch and Guillermin, the military said.

Of more than 400,000 American service members killed during World War II, the remains of more than 73,000 were never recovered or identified, according to the military. More than 1,640 American service members from the Vietnam War are still either missing or not identified.

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