FRESNO — A glacier-encased body believed to be a World War II airman who crashed into the Sierra Nevada in 1942 was flown off the mountain and into a Fresno laboratory for identification, the county’s deputy coroner said Thursday.
Blustery conditions kept rangers at Kings Canyon National Park from reaching the frozen remains for two days after two ice climbers reported last weekend they had seen a man’s head, shoulder and arm protruding from the thick ice.
About 80 percent of the body was buried in the glacier on the side of the 13,710-foot Mount Mendel. The remote wilderness area can only be reached by hiking two or three days, or by helicopter when the weather allows, rangers said.[…]Park officials summoned the military agency because the man was still wearing a parachute with the word “Army” stenciled onto it. They believe the serviceman may be part of the crew of an AT-7 navigational training plane that crashed on the mountain on Nov. 18, 1942. Several military planes crashed among the craggy peaks in the 1930s and 1940s.
The wreckage was initially spotted by a climber in 1947. It’s impossible to tell if this body is really connected to that expedition until experts go through the identification process, which will include a thorough examination of the clothing and a search for any documents that may have survived the decades, and may include dental records, X-rays or DNA testing, experts said.[…]Bob Mann, the deputy scientific director with the command’s Central Identification Laboratory, said sometimes remains found in glaciers are reasonably well preserved. Often even soft tissue like skin can keep well in icy conditions.
Glaciers are living things, Mann said, slowly melting around the edges and grinding over rock as they move, and sometimes leaving behind long-hidden secrets like this one.
The agency processes hundreds of cases a year, and has an average of two identifications a week, said spokeswoman Rumi Nielson-Green.
“To those families, those are the ones that count,” she said.
The body is believed to be one of these airmen:
The men were never heard from again after leaving a Sacramento military base on Nov. 18, 1942, for a routine training flight through the Central Valley.