By Steve Quinn
JUNEAU Alaska (Reuters) - The bodies of 17 U.S. service members recovered from a 1952 military aircraft crash have been identified following discovery of the wreckage two years ago in Alaska’s Chugach Mountain range, military officials said on Wednesday.
The servicemen, who came from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, will be returned to their families for military burials and full military honors, said a statement from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Fifty-two people were aboard the C-124 Globemaster, a military cargo aircraft flying from McChord Air Force Base in Washington to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, when it crashed on Nov. 22, 1952.
The plane included 11 crewmen and 41 passengers. The crash occurred at a time of year when daylight was down to just a few hours in that part of Alaska, and search parties were unable to locate any of the service members.
The crew of an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter spotted the wreckage in June 2012 during a training mission in Colony Glacier, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Anchorage, the state’s most populated city.
Later that month and in 2013, a military team dedicated to recovering the bodies of service members missing in action conducted recovery operations at the site.
Department of Defense scientists relied on forensic tools and circumstantial evidence to identify the 17 service members recovered from the crash site.
The remaining members of the military who were aboard the aircraft have not been recovered, but the crash site will be examined further in hopes of finding other bodies, military officials said in the statement.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Peter Cooney)