Remains Of Oklahoma Aviator Missing Since World War II Identified

Thursday, September 23rd 2010, 1:39 pm
By: News On 6

CHEROKEE, OKLAHOMA -- The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office says the remains of a U.S. serviceman from Oklahoma, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Aviation Radioman Second Class William L. Russell of Cherokee, Oklahoma, disappeared along with his pilot while on a mission for the U.S. Navy.  Cherokee is in Alfalfa County west of Ponca City.

Russell will be buried October 1st at Arlington National Cemetery.

On November 10, 1943, Russell and Lieutenant Francis B. McIntyre took off on a bombing mission from the Solomon Islands in their SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber.  

Russell was a gunner on the single-engine plane.  Lieutenant McIntyre, the pilot, was from Mitchell, South Dakota.

The aircraft was last seen flying at low altitude over an explosion on the enemy airfield on Buka Island, Papua New Guinea, although witnesses did not see the airplane crash.

According to the web site, McIntyre and Russell's plane joined 54 other Dauntlesses, as well as 34 TBF Avengers and 54 fighter aircraft for the raid.  Each Dauntless was armed with a single 1000-pound instantaneous fused bomb.  

The crew was declared dead on January 1st, 1946.  In 2007, a Papuan national found a World War II crash site near the Buka airport, which was reported to U.S. officials.

In May 2008, specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, working with the country's national museum, investigated the crash site.

Officials turned over human remains and other military-related items which had been recovered earlier. The JPAC team was unable to excavate the site due to adverse weather.

To identify the remains, the team used dental records, circumstantial evidence as well as mitochondrial DNA which matched a sample from Russell's relatives and DNA extracted from a hat belonging to McIntyre.

Most of the 24-hundred SBD-5s built during World War II were manufactured in the Douglas plant in Tulsa, a building which is now home to Spirit AeroSystems and a Navistar Bus factory.