US team on 'search mission' to Arunachal

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Itanagar, Jun 5 (UNI) A five-member team from the United States Joint Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Accounting Command (JPAC) will arrive here on June 24 to conduct a search mission on the remains of missing World War II fighter pilots and their flying machines.

Official sources said here today that the US team would be assisted by a team of the Indian Air Force in their mission.

The team, comprising Lt Col Peter Huddle, Lt Col Bruce E Cox, Major Craig Tippins, Major William J Taylor and Captain Joshua K Marcus, would be accompanied by US Consul General in Kolkata Henry V Jardine.

Mr Jardine, who had visited different parts of this hilly state in March to explore the possibility of conducting a search for hundreds of missing American pilots' remains on humanitarian grounds, had forwarded a detailed report on the findings of private US investigator Clayton Kuhles.

Mr Kuhles, along with an Arunachalee tour operator, Oken Tayeng, reportedly found wreckages of six missing-in-action (MIA) planes in different hillocks of the state, the last being right in the heart of the state capital.

Chief of the JPAC Rear Admiral Donna L Crisp had told reporters in New Delhi last month that joint Indian and US military teams would hunt for the 'remains' of the 430 missing American personnel in the thick jungles on the upper reaches of Arunachal and other states in the North East in late summer.

Indian Air Force helicopters have been reportedly conducting recce in possible crash sites in inaccessible hilly areas of the state.

The state drew the US's attention after the recovery of a silver bracelet on a hilltop here in which the name of flight engineer Arnold Stavinha was engraved.

The debris of US fighter plane 'Hot as Hell' had also been spotted at Damora in East Siang district the year before last and that was one of the MIA planes missing since 1944.

According to investigators, hundreds of planes and pilots went missing in the China-Burma-India war theatre in their mission to maintain the supply line from Ledo in Assam's Tinsukia district to Kunming in China, avoiding the fighter planes of Japan.

For this, they had to fly the hump of the treacherous Himalayan air corridor, from where many pilots went missing.


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