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A U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory search and recovery team from Hawaii is to head to a Papua New Guinea rain forest this week to excavate a World War II B-24D Liberator crash site.

The aircraft disappeared with nine American aviators aboard.

A hunter came across the crash site in mountainous Bugiau Village, CILHI spokeswoman Ginger Couden said in a news release. CILHI investigators visited the site, in Lae Morobe Province’s upper Mumeng District, in November.

The bomber is believed to have been assigned to the Army Air Corps’ 360th Service Group. The plane left Nabzab, New Guinea, about 15 miles from the crash site, on a training mission in October 1944.

Aboard were a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, aerial engineer, radio operator and three gunners.

The crewmembers’ names were not released.

On the November trip to the crash site, investigators discovered human remains and personal effects, including identification tags, Couden said. The team from the lab is expected to spend two months at the site.

The deployment will be challenging, Couden said, because the site is at an elevation of about 4,125 feet.

It’s in a damp area. All soil excavated will be pushed through quarter-inch wire screens by water from a nearby stream so even the smallest remains and personal affects can be recovered, CILHI officials said.

Forensic experts at CILHI’s lab at Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force Base routinely examine recovered remains to attempt positive identification.

Since 1973, CILHI has identified more than 1,089 American servicemembers formerly listed as unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, on the Korean peninsula and in the Russian Far East.

About 100 American servicemen were lost in Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific nation the size of California.

Couden estimated the mountainous nation also houses about 200 additional World War II crash sites.


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