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Vet to be put to rest, along with ID doubts
by John A. Dvorak, September 4, 2004

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.

But 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 Cemetery near North Platte, Neb.

" 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 never 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, portrays 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.

Military 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. Hough, 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 because 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 dead relative 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 and recovered 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 her 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 Command, more 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.

The 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 another. City 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 will provide 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 Airport. Research done 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."


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