A World War II aviator's remains are being returned to his Kansas
hometown for burial after a blood sample from a niece helped identify them. " We
always talked about bringing him home." Karyn Douthat, niece of Lt. Kenneth Hough
OTTAWA, Kan. - The grave marker in Nebraska carries the name of Lt. Kenneth
Hough, but for decades in his hometown of Ottawa, the family harbored uncertainty.
No one questioned whether the man, whom one relative remembered as "a
good-looking boy" and a tough football player, was dead. Other fliers
described the 1944 crash of his B-25 during a World War II bombing mission
in the South Pacific.
DNA tests didn't exist then. Human remains found at the crash site couldn't
be identified and weren't even brought back to the United States until well
after the war.
In keeping with procedures then, the military placed remains
thought to be from the six-man crew in a group burial at Fort McPherson National
There was the doubt in people's minds," said Mary McAdoo, 73, who still
remembers the cousin whom people called Kenny.
Had his body really been brought
to the United States? Several years ago additional remains of the fliers were
located at the crash site. Because of persistence by the military and advances
in science, they
were identified in May. This time, there was no doubt. Hough has been found,
and his cremated remains are scheduled to arrive in Ottawa today. A service
of remembrance will be Oct. 8 at Highland Cemetery, where
he will rest beside his parents.
Many victims of World War II, the Korean War
and the Vietnam War are being identified in similar fashion.
Karyn Douthat, 64, said she felt wonderful last spring when the Pentagon
called with the news about Hough, who was her uncle."
We always talked about bringing him home," she said.
It was Douthat who
provided the blood sample that led to the identification. She has no recollection
of Hough. Neither she nor other family members ever pressed for a search of
the crash site, or an effort to identify remains. They
imagined that what has happened could happen.
People were more accepting, she
said, when soldiers died in World War II. Hough, a 1936 graduate of Ottawa
High School, headed to war with a unit of Ottawa men. "
Everybody was so proud of them," said cousin Willis Hough, 78, who described
his relative as "a good-looking boy" and a tough football player.
A yearbook at Ottawa University, where Hough played on the offensive line,
a determined and handsome man. Hough went to the South Pacific in 1943. In
a January 1944 letter to his parents, he spoke of an upcoming rest period.
records reveal what happened soon after: On Jan. 20, several B-25s left the
Solomon Islands on a low-level bombing mission in Papua, New Guinea.
27 at the time, was a navigator and bombardier on one of them. As his plane
left the target area, it rolled into an inverted position and crashed, possibly
of antiaircraft fire. Other pilots reported flames and a huge column of black
smoke. No parachutes were seen.
After World War II, the U.S. Army recovered skeletal remains from the site,
said Staff Sergeant Erika Gladhill, a spokeswoman for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting
Command in Hawaii. "
No individual identifications were made," she said.
A ceremony was held
at Fort McPherson National Cemetery in 1949, with some Hough family members
in attendance. And while family members discussed their
through the years, no one expected further developments. Unbeknownst to them,
the curator of a museum in New Guinea filed a report about aircraft wreckage
in 1983. A team from the U.S. Army Central Identification
Laboratory in Hawaii went to what turned out to be the site of the B-25 crash
additional human remains, Gladhill said. In 1995, she said, bone samples were
submitted to another laboratory for DNA analysis.
In Ottawa, Douthat received
a call from the Pentagon in 1999 asking for a blood sample. "
I was just floored," she said. "I was just amazed." The retired
nurse complied, then checked back occasionally and received no news. Last
spring, however, a call came that testing had positively identified
uncle. It's not unusual these days to hear about identification of victims
from past wars. In recent years, according to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting
than 130 Americans lost in New Guinea during World War II have been identified.
Earlier this year, remains of more than a dozen American servicemen lost
in World War II and the Vietnam War were returned to Hawaii for identification.
accounting command uses the phrase "Until they are home" as a
motto. Knowing that Hough was coming home, a variety of people have joined
together to bring about the Oct. 8 service. Relatives are contacting one
leaders in Ottawa changed an ordinance to allow burial of Hough's remains
in family cemetery plots already used for his parents and brothers. Officials
at Fort Riley, Kan., helped coordinate the return of Hough's remains and
a military honor guard.
Lamb/Roberts Funeral Home planned the service and Friday
took possession of Hough's remains from the military at Kansas City International
by the funeral home resulted in a six-page pamphlet. "After 60 years,
a hero returns home," it says. The funeral home will charge no fee. "It's
an honor," said office manager
Jere Justice, "for us to do this."