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WWII Pilot 1st Lt. John E. Terpning Buried At Arlington National Cemetery

11:05 AM, Apr 3, 2013   |    comments
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ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA) --  The remains of a missing World War II pilot, which were recently identified, have been buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday.

According to the U.S. Army,  1st Lt. John E. Terpning and 9 other men disappeared when their plane went down in May of 1944. In 1973, the wreckage and some remains were found in the mountains northeast of Lae, New Guinea, but the remains could not be identified. Decades later, scientists were able to determine that the remains were those of Terpning, who was a pilot of the B-24D Liberator aircraft.

Army officials say on May 7, 1944, 1st Lt. Terpning, of Mount Prospect, Ill., was the pilot of the plane that departed Nadzab, New Guinea on a bombing mission. There were mechanical troubles that delayed the departure with other planes, say officials, and no one saw the plane takeoff. Two years later, the War Department declared the men to be presumed dead, according to Army officials.

Then, in 1973, a Papua New Guinea Forest Department official said a wartime aircraft was seen in the mountains northeast of the city of Lae. A team of Royal Australian Air Force members visited the site, say officials, and found wreckage believed to be a B-24D. The team also recovered possible human remains and they were transferred to the U.S. Army Mortuary in Tachikawa, Japan. The technology at the time provided no way of individually identifying the remains so they were buried as a group in 1974 at Arlington National Cemetery, according to Army officials.

Finally, in April 2008, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team investigated at the crash site and recovered aircraft wreckage and additional remains, including a radio call sign data plate that matched the aircraft, say Army officials. Scientists then used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification technology to identify Terpning's remains.

At 9 a.m. on April 3, 2013, a burial service was held for 1st Lt. Terpning. See photos from the service above.

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