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World War II airman to be buried June 5 in California

A 21-year-old New York airman who died in World War II will be buried in Southern California 75 years after his bomber crashed in the Pacific.

A memorial service for Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Vincent J. Rogers Jr. will be held June 5 at the Riverside National Cemetery, according to The Press Enterprise.

Rogers’ remains were accounted for on March 21, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

In this undated photo provided by the March Field Air Museum, Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Vincent J. Rogers Jr. poses for a photo at Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Madison, Wis. U.S. military officials say the remains of the western New York airman killed in a plane crash in the Pacific during World War II have been identified. Rogers was from Snyder, N.Y, outside of Buffalo. (March Field Air Museum via AP)
Remains of WWII airman who inspired museum’s exhibit ID’d

The remains of a New York airman whose trove of 200-plus wartime letters inspired a California museum’s popular World War II exhibit have been identified 75 years after he died in a crash off a Pacific island.

On Jan. 21, 1944, Rogers was an assistant radio operator for the 38th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 30th Bombardment Group, stationed at Hawkins Field, Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, when his B-24J bomber crashed in shallow water shortly after take-off.

The squadron's physician witnessed the crash and immediately waded into the water. He was able to rescue three members of the 10-man crew. The other seven crew members perished in the crash. Their remains were subsequently recovered from the wreckage and buried on the island in a temporary cemetery.

Following the war, the U.S. Army’s 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio between 1946 and 1947. Those efforts led to the recovery and identification of three of the seven deceased crew members from the B-24J. The AGRC also consolidated all the remains from isolated burial sites into a single cemetery called Lone Palm Cemetery. The remains of the other four crewmembers from the B-24J bomber were believed to be among those moved, however Rogers’ remains were not identified and he was declared non-recoverable.

Those Tarawa remains that could not be identified were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. DPAA disinterred the remains in April 2017 and later confirmed that they were of Rogers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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