World War II crash site on Oahu set for excavation this month
September 17, 2006
HICKAM AFB, HAWAII - Approximately sixty years ago a U.S. Navy Reserve aviator left on a training mission from Barbers Point, Oahu, in preparation to become one of America's World War II pilots. He never returned.<br/><br/>On July 17, a JPAC recovery team will excavate the suspected crash site of Ensign Harry Warnke in a remote area of the Ko'olau Mountain range.<br/><br/>A Congressional mandate requires that JPAC make every reasonable effort to search for, recover, and identify the remains of United States servicemen lost in the Pacific theatre while engaged in flight operations during World War II.<br/><br/>The mission, however, hinges on more than policy. There are still members from the Warnke family waiting for answers.<br/><br/>On June 15, 1944, Warnke was reported missing after he did not return from a series of aerial dives. Two days later, his unit identified the crash site. According to military reports from the time, items and remains from the wreckage were collected and buried at the site shortly before Warnke's unit left the island to support World War II efforts.<br/><br/>In 1999 Joint Task Force-Full Accounting personnel spotted remnants of the aircraft in an aerial search. JTF-FA has since merged with the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii. Subsequently, the combined units are now known as JPAC.<br/><br/>JPAC will be joined by the Hawaii National Guard during the recovery mission. Hawaii National Guard personnel will sling load soil dug from the site in preparation for JPAC personnel to sift this soil through wire screens in search of evidence. Sling-loading is a military tactic used to transport by air items to and from sites that are difficult to traverse. In this case, soil removed from the site will be transported to a location near Wheeler Army Airfield. All recovered remains and material evidence will be transported to JPAC's laboratory for analysis.<br/><br/>Aerial missions in and out of the crash site area are necessary to ensure minimal environmental impact.