Remains of Mpls. Marine missing 68 years to be buried Thursday

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 2, 2012 - 7:44 PM

Teams spent 11 years evacuating the crash site on an island in the south Pacific Ocean.

The remains of a Minneapolis Marine who has been missing for 68 years will be buried this week along with six colleagues from a World War II training mission after their bodies were identified from plane wreckage in the South Pacific.

Cpl. Wayne R. Erickson, who was 19 when he died, was one of seven crew members who left on a training mission over the island of Espiritu Santo, in what is known today as Vanuatu, on April 22, 1944, aboard a PBJ-1 aircraft that failed to return. None of the seven crew members were recovered at that time, and in 1945 they were officially presumed dead, according to the Department of Defense.

In 1994, a group of private citizens notified the U.S. that aircraft wreckage had been found on the island of Espiritu Santo. Human remains were recovered from the site at that time and turned over to the Department of Defense.

The crash site was located in 1999 at an elevation of 2,600 feet, in what was described as extremely rugged terrain, and a team of investigators determined that specialized mountain training would be necessary to safely complete a recovery mission, the Defense Department said. From 2000 to 2011, multiple recovery teams excavated the site and recovered human remains, aircraft parts and military equipment.

Along with Erickson, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Laverne A. Lallathin of Raymond, Wash.; 2nd Lt. Dwight D. Ekstam of Moline, Ill.; 2nd Lt. Walter B. Vincent, Jr. of Tulsa, Okla.; Tech. Sgt. James A. Sisney of Redwood City, Calif.; Cpl. John D. Yeager of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Pfc. John A. Donovan of Plymouth, Mich., will be buried as a group, in a single casket representing the crew, on Thursday in Arlington National Cemetery.

Portions of Erickson's remains already were buried earlier this year in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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