KUALA LUMPUR • Shortly after World War II ended, three United States airmen took off from Singapore aboard a military transport on a flight to an airfield in northern Malaysia that never arrived.
Nearly 70 years later, the presumed remains of the US service members finally headed home yesterday following a sombre ceremony in Kuala Lumpur.
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter was in attendance as four Malaysian soldiers handed over a small wooden box to US troops at the airport ceremony.
As troops saluted and Mr Carter held his hand over his heart, the box was placed in a metal casket with a US flag unfurled across its top.
Two US airmen and two American soldiers acting as pallbearers carried the coffin into a C-130 transport plane, which took off for Hawaii.
The handover of the remains marks the culmination of a decades-long effort to find out what happened to the plane and its crew: Flight Officer Judson Baskett, First Lieutenant William Myers and Private First Class Donald Jones.
Visibility was good on Nov 27, 1945, with only scattered showers forecast, as the C-47 military transport plane took off for Penang.
But after the plane disappeared and an extensive search failed to find anything, the young crew members were eventually declared dead. Its wreckage was later spotted in 1966 in Malaysia, but not investigated.
The presumed remains of the servicemen were finally recovered this year.