Texas governor heading to Pacific to aid in search for remains of missing WWII servicemen

By JONATHAN TILOVE | Austin American-Statesman | Published: April 3, 2014

Gov. Rick Perry is heading Saturday to the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau on a nearly two-week trip to help the BentProp Project search for the remains of U.S. servicemen who went missing in action during World War II.

Thousands of Americans were wounded or killed in action in 1944 and 1945 by occupying Japanese forces on the islands of Peleliu and Anguar in what is now Palau, and Perry will join in the search for downed American aircraft.

Perry is a former Air Force pilot, and his father, Joseph Ray Perry, flew more than 30 missions over Europe during World War II as a tail gunner on a B-17 bomber.

Perry will be joined by first lady Anita Perry on the trip. They will be the guests of the BentStar Project, which helps fund the BentProp Project, and Pursuit Productions, which is making a documentary on the expedition. No tax dollars will be spent on travel or accommodations, according to the governor’s office. The Perrys will return from Palau on April 17.

In addition to participating in the expedition, Gov. Perry will address a joint session of the Palau National Congress and the first lady will tour Belau National Hospital and meet with the Palau Nurses Association.

The Perrys will be joined on the trip by Romus Valton “R.V.” Burgin, a veteran of the battles of Peleliu, Cape Gloucester and Okinawa, and Marcus Luttrell, a retired Navy SEAL and close friend of the governor.

“Somewhere in the waters of Palau, or deep within its marshy jungles, lie the answers some families have been waiting generations to hear,” Gov. Perry said in a statement. “The BentProp Project has made a mission of finding those answers, and I’m honored to lend a hand to the 2014 expedition, both in the field and in spreading the word about this exceptional program.”

The BentProp Project has indexed the crash sites of more than two dozen American military aircraft as part of its search for about 80 MIAs in the Republic of Palau. On previous expeditions, the project has helped locate and recover the remains of eight American MIAs there.

Perry’s trip means that he won’t be in Austin for next week’s Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Library, commemorating the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, at which President Barack Obama and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will speak.

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