Posted Online: Oct. 04, 2012, 6:25 pm

Moline WWII soldier's remains buried at Arlington

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The Associated Press

Photo:
A family member receives a folded American flag during burial services for seven missing U.S. Marines from World War II, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Va. The remains, representing the crew, were buried as a group in a single casket, including: 1st Lt. Laverne A. Lallathin of Raymond, Wash., 2nd Lt. Dwight D. Ekstam of Moline, Ill., 2nd Lt. Walter B. Vincent, Jr. of Tulsa, Okla., Tech. Sgt. James A. Sisney of Redwood City, Calif., Cpl. Wayne R. Erickson of Minneapolis, Cpl. John D. Yeager of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Pfc. John A. Donovan of Plymouth, Mich. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON (AP) — A funeral was held Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery for 2nd Lt. Dwight Ekstam of Moline and six others who were killed in a World War II crash and whose remains were only recently identified.

Lt. Ekstam was on a PBJ-1 bomber that crashed on Espiritu Santo island in the South Pacific in 1944. With him were Pfc. John A. Donovan of Plymouth , Mich.; 1st Lt. Laverne Lallathin of Raymond, Wash.; 2nd Lt. Walter Vincent of Tulsa, Okla.; Tech. Sgt. James Sisney of Redwood City, Calif.; Cpl. Wayne Erickson of Minneapolis; and Cpl. John Yeager of Pittsburgh.

The partial remains of Mr. Ekstam and five of his comrades were buried together Thursday. Lt. Lallathin's remains was interred separately.

Services for Lt. Ekstram also were held at National Cemetery on the Rock Island Arsenal on June 14.

Lt. Ekstam was 21 when he was killed in a PBJ-1, a Marine Corps variant of the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, which crashed into a mountain while on a training mission in the New Hebrides (Asia South Pacific) on April 22, 1944.

The remains of the Moline native and his crewmembers rested more than 3,000 feet above sea level in a dense jungle on the 90-square-mile island for many years. During World War II, the allies used the remote location as an advanced bombing base for Guadacanal and Solomons.

This past March, Hattie Johnson, head of POW/MIA affairs for the Marine Corps, based in Quantico, Va., said an island plantation owner in 1944 contacted a major from Marine Air Group 11 where 2nd Lt. Ekstam was assigned. A short time after the crash, island natives recovered a pistol and partially burned log book.

In May 1944, a search party searched for the missing Marines. Ms. Johnson said remains were found on the island and a cross erected. But the burial site wasn't recorded and a report never was located.

In the 1980s, a search team looking for another World War II Marine Corps veteran accidentally came upon a crash site of a PBJ-1 bomber, like the one used by the seven Marines in 1944. After years of surveys and attempts to find the location, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command began excavation in 2009. The difficult climb on the mountain hindered retrieval of the remains.

Assisted by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in Rockville, Md., work on the island continued through 2011. Official identification of the seven Marines wasn't made until Jan. 24, Ms. Johnson said.


Staff reports from The Dispatch/Argus contributed to this story.