7 US Marines missing in World War II buried at Arlington - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

7 US Marines missing in World War II buried at Arlington National Cemetery

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More than 73,000 U.S. servicemen from World War II are still classified as Missing In Action. On Thursday, the remains of seven Marines declared MIA 68 years ago were buried together with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

They were Marine Corps 1st Lt. Laverne A. Lallathin, 22, of Raymond, Wash.; 2nd Lt. Dwight D. Ekstam, 21, of Moline, Ill.; 2nd Lt. Walter B. Vincent, Jr., 21, of Tulsa, Okla.; Tech. Sgt. James A. Sisney, 19, of Redwood City, Calif.; Cpl. Wayne R. Erickson, 19, of Minneapolis; Pfc. John A. Donovan, 20, of Plymouth, Mich. and Cpl. John D. Yeager, 23, of Pittsburgh, Pa.

"He was 12 years older than I was and he was always my hero as I was growing up," says Daniel Harkins, Cpl. Yeager's nephew.

Harkins and his sister, Marilyn Claassen, were among the relatives of all seven Marines coming from across the country for the extraordinary ceremony and burial.

"And they will be in a common grave here in Arlington," says Claassen. "It's a celebration. It's a celebration and a homecoming. We brought them home."

The Marines went missing on April 22, 1944 when their modified B-25 patrol bomber crashed into a mountain on the South Pacific island of Espiritu Santo.

Remnants of the aircraft were first discovered 50 years later. Members of a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command survey team first went to inspect the site in 1999 and other teams spent the past 10 years excavating the crash site.

"It was a very dense jungle," Claassen says. "And JPAC went in and started sifting through all the dirt and all the rubble and came up with all of the remains of the bones, coins and my uncle's wedding band."

Claassen carried it with her to the burial.

"People react to death in different ways," says Cpl. Yeager's nephew, Daniel. "Uncle Jack's mother and father took children into the home to raise them and that was kind of their reaction to the grief."

The Pentagon used DNA from living relatives to positively identify the remains.

Click on the video tab to watch the story photographed and edited by FOX 5 Photojournalist Jack Frame.

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