Wisconsin airman’s remains brought home 70 years after Alaska crash

Almost 70 years after his disappearance in the Korean War, U.S. Air Force Airman 2nd Class Edward J. Miller received a hero’s welcome at General Mitchell International Airport, then returned home for the last time.

Miller, who grew up in the Rock County community of Evansville, was aboard a Douglas C-124 Globemaster on November 22, 1952, when it crashed into Mount Gannett about 45 miles east Anchorage during a snowstorm. The plane was heading for Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage from McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Wash.

Forty-one passengers and 11 crew members were on the transport flight. All died in the accident.

Dozens of curious onlookers watched law enforcement and fire vehicles line up outside Gate D-44 Friday night in preparation for the arrival of Miller’s remains. When the Delta Air Lines plane carrying Miller’s remains landed, military officials hoisted an American flag.

As the passengers began to take off from the commercial flight, a Delta official announced in the terminal, “We have a fallen soldier on board… We would like to have a good time of calm for the fallen soldier. ”

The door area immediately calmed down, and then several passengers stood or sat by the windows to watch the coffin, draped in an American flag, roll on a treadmill. Military officials saluted, then gently transferred him from the plane to a waiting hearse. In the terminal, some observers took videos; some cried.

A convoy comprising of military, law enforcement and firefighters escorted the remains of Miller and members of his family to the Ward-Hurtley Funeral Home in Evansville.

Related:With honor flights postponed for pandemic, veterans get support demonstration with trailer through Milwaukee

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The sisters’ emotions were high

Miller graduated from Evansville High School in 1948 and joined the military in 1951. He is survived by two sisters, Dorothy Wheaton and Nancy Cox, both of whom live in Florida.

The two made the trip to Wisconsin this weekend. The two chose not to speak; the emotions were too strong.

Since 2012, the Colony Glacier Recovery Team, a group of Air Force and Army researchers, have been recovering the remains of those lost in the crash. All but a few have been found.

Miller’s remains were unearthed by the Colony’s Glacier Salvage Team during three different missions between 2012 and 2019. In one of those missions, an ID tag with Miller’s name and information vitales was found near the remains.

Family and friends wait with Rock County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard, Evansville Police Officer, United States Air Force Honor Guard, VetsRoll.org and Ward-Hurtley Funeral Home for the arrival of the remains of US Air Force Airman 2nd Class Edward J. Miller at Mitchell Airport on Friday.

The Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s lab in Dover, Del., Confirmed that the remains near the identity tag belonged to Miller using mitochondrial DNA sequencing from deep bone tissue.

Two other men from southern Wisconsin were killed in the 1952 plane crash. The remains of George Ingram of Beloit and Thomas Condon of Waukesha were sent home in 2016.

Governor Tony Evers ordered all flags of the United States and Wisconsin to be hoisted on half staff Saturday in honor of Miller. At 1 p.m. he was buried with full military honors at Maple Hill Cemetery in Evansville.

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