A bittersweet honor


On Wednesday, the remains of nine servicemen were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery, with full honors. Their names were:

1st Lt. William J. Sarsfield
2nd Lt. Charles E. Trimingham
2nd Lt. Francis G. Peattie
2nd Lt. Herman H. Knott
Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Christopherson
Tech. Sgt. Leonard A. Gionet
Staff Sgt. Henry Garcia
Staff Sgt. Robert E. Griebel
Staff Sgt. Pace P. Payne

Their journey had been a long one.

They were crew members of a B-17 that was shot down over New Guinea on July 26, 1943. The lone survivor was 1st Lt. Jose L. Holguin, who bailed out after the plane had been hit. He was injured, cared for by natives in New Guinea, and eventually handed over to the Japanese who kept him in captivity until the end of the war.

Later, the crash site was reported to U.S. authorities who recovered the remains and had them interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu (also known as Punchbowl).

But Lt. Holguin wasn’t done. He revisited the crash site in the early eighties and found parts of his old plane, known as “Naughty But Nice.” This prompted an exhumation of the remains resting in Punchbowl, and the identification of several crew members’ remains (using technology that had not be available earlier). In 2001 the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command revisited the crash site and through DNA testing was able to confirm the remaining crew members.

And on Wednesday, the crewmen were buried with full honors at Arlington. Together for all these years, they will remain together forever.

Sadly, LT Holguin did not live to see the day. He passed away in 1994 – the one responsible for the identification of his crew was the only one who was buried apart from them.


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