The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today
that the remains of seven U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been
identified and are being buried with full military honors.
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; Cpl. John D.
Yeager, 23, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Pfc. John A. Donovan, 20, of Plymouth, Mich.; will be buried
as a group, in a single casket representing the crew, on Oct. 4 in Arlington National Cemetery
near Washington, D.C. Six of the Marines were identified and buried as individuals previously
this year. Lallathin, also individually identified, will be interred individually at Arlington on the
same day as the group interment.
On April 22, 1944, the Marines were aboard a PBJ-1 aircraft that failed to return from a
night training mission over the island of Espiritu Santo, in what is known today as Vanuatu.
None of the seven crew members were recovered at that time, and in 1945 they were officially
In 1994, a group of private citizens notified the U.S. that aircraft wreckage had been found
on the island of Espiritu Santo. Human remains were recovered from the site at that time and
turned over to the Department of Defense.
In 1999, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) survey team traveled to the
location. The crash site was located at an elevation of 2,600 ft., in extremely rugged terrain, and
the team determined that specialized mountain training would be necessary to safely complete a
recovery mission. From 2000 to 2011, multiple JPAC recovery teams excavated the site and
recovered human remains, aircraft parts and military equipment.
To identify the remains, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification
Laboratory (AFDIL) evaluated circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial DNA – which matched
that of the Marines’ family members.
More than 400,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II died.
Today, more than 73,000 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the conflict.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing
Americans, visit the DPMO web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.