China helps U.S. to retrieve remains of crashed American aircrew 59 years ago
From Chinese News Service
BEIJING, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese armed forces have reviewed key information in military archives to locate the crash site of a U.S. bomber 59 years ago, hoping to retrieve remains of some pilots out of the total 15 on board.
Archivists with China's People's Liberation Army said Monday they could very likely discover the remains of personnel on the U.S. B-29 bomber, which crashed on a hill in Guangdong Province on Nov. 5,1950.
The crew of the air mission on Nov. 5, 1950, were listed by the U.S. Defense Department as missing in action during the Korean War(1950-1953).
Under a memorandum signed by China and the U.S. in February last year, China promises to search millions of PLA archives for evidence relating to the possible remains of missing personnel.
The PLA will also inform the U.S. Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) every six months about the progress of the search.
The PLA Archives Department has started a thorough examination over some 1.5 million archives about then People's Volunteer Army, the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the PLA's headquarters during the Korean War.
Primary research of the archives has found more than 100 documents relating to missing U.S. servicemen.
Coinciding with the good news for the American families that have lost contacts with their beloved for decades, Vice CMC Chairman General Xu Caihou started on Monday his U.S. visit at the invitation of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, signaling high-profile China-U.S. military exchange after roughly one-year standstill.
Senior Colonel Li Gang, deputy director general of the PLA Archives Department, said the department had provided at least four valuable archives to the DPMO in connection with the B-29 crash.
The archivists had discovered that a B-29 "Super fortress" bomber caught fire and crashed while flying over Raoping County, Guangdong, on Nov. 5, 1950. Fifteen crewmembers, including a woman, were found dead at the site and were initially identified U.S. military personnel.
The archivists had visited the recorded crash site and had interviewed 19 local witnesses who helped them identify the burial site of at least one body.
Guided by witness Lin Zhengping, 73, of Jiaoshuikeng village of Chao'an County, Chinese archivists identified an area covering about 100 square meters where the U.S. remains were most likely to be found.
Xu Yueshu, another witness, recalled: "I saw an aircraft fall and crash in the opposite mountain in early Nov., 1950. Many people ran up to the mountain to have a look, so did I.
"The adults buried the remains. When I got up there I saw many of the aircraft's pieces scattered everywhere. I remember very clearly that one quite complete body was buried on the mountain ridge."
The PLA archives show that villagers found a parachute, rifles, a revolver, spoons, documents in English and a Parker pen at the crash site. Four comparatively complete bodies were buried at the site.
Expert Song Chuanfu of the PLA Archives Department, who took part in the field investigation, said, "The sites of buried bodies are likely unrecognizable due to natural disasters such as floods in the past 59 years, which might had moved the mud and rocks, so it is extremely difficult to search for the remains."
"But we think that if we can have payment for using specialist equipment, the possibility of finding the remains is quite high," Song said.
Rear Admiral Donna Crisp, Commander of Joint Prisoners of War/ Missing in Action Accounting Command of the U.S. Pacific Command, gave a medal to a senior Chinese archive expert Liu Yiquan, who persisted in helping search the whereabouts of the U.S. missings, honoring Liu's devotion to the bilateral humanitarian issue.
Robin Piacine, president of Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs, wrote in a letter to the PLA Archives Department, "Each time a soldier's remains are returned to a loved one, it helps the family members to begin the closure process."
"We highly value the cooperation from your government and its work and see it as a source of hope and promise," Piacine said.
U.S. Department of Defense statistics show that more than 8,100 U.S. Service personnel are still officially missing from the Korean War.