U.S. and Malaysia Partnership Brings Fallen Hero Home

By Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia

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The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has one end goal; to find our fallen service members, bring them home and provide answers to their families. On Nov. 5, at Subang Air Base, Malaysia, a repatriation ceremony was held to honor one of our patriots returning to American soil.

The yet to be identified service member was aboard a C-47 twin engine transport airplane that crashed in November of 1945. The aircraft, carrying a crew of three, was flying from Singapore to Butterworth Malaysia. They were last heard from seventy minutes after takeoff, approximately 125 miles northwest of Singapore, when the aircraft radioed its position for the final time.

Seventy years later, a joint partnership between the U.S. and Malaysian governments culminated in a 25 day mission at a crash site in Perak State where remains as well as material evidence were recovered. 

“It is incredibly important to have partnerships with the host nations,” said DPAA team leader U.S. Marine Capt. Gregory Lynch. “We can never forget that for DPAA missions, we are guests of the host nations.”

The joint effort marks the first time that the Malaysian government has turned over American remains. 

“The Malaysians provided a great deal of support and were true partners,” said Lynch. Such support included helicopter assets, supplies, and workers to help with the excavation. Experts from the University Sans Malaysia and the Disaster Victim Identification Unit assisted with technical work at the site and the Malaysian Army Museum worked with the Forestry Department to obtain the required permitting.

Upon arrival at the DPAA lab in Hawaii, the remains will undergo DNA testing as well as dental and biological analysis.

“It’s awesome to find remains,” said Lynch. “To be able to come back and be a part of a Repatriation Ceremony of this scale is a great experience.” 

The repatriation team was comprised of members of the DPAA along with augmentees from the United States Army Pacific and Pacific Air Forces. The ceremony, led by U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Jayson Franco, gave the team an opportunity to show honor to, and signify the return of the fallen hero to his country. 

“It was an honor and privilege to be part of this ceremony,” said Franco. “It’s always a good feeling when we are able to find someone, identify them, and return them to their families after so many years of being missing. Hopefully this will give the families closure.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was on hand to attend the ceremony as well as officially sign the transfer of remains with the Malaysia Deputy Defense Minister Dato’ Wira Mohd Johari Bin Baharum. 

For the DPAA, the event marks another successful mission resulting in the return of one of our fallen heroes as well as opening the door to future partnerships with Malaysia.

“My hope is this mission laid the foundation for future recovery efforts in Malaysia and strengthened the relationship between the two countries,” said Lynch.

As the mission and resulting ceremony came to a close, Master Sgt. Franco reflected on the recent events.

“These ceremonies are important,” said Franco. “No matter how many years they were missing it’s the honorable thing to do.”


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