NEW DELHI: Excavated remains of soldiers, including fragments of bones, and artifacts of a US Air Force B-24 bomber and a C-109 aircraft that had crashed in present-day Arunachal Pradesh during the World War II were today sent off to the US.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who was here on a three-day visit, oversaw the repatriation ceremony at the airport here.
One set of remains was recovered in Arunachal Pradesh between September 12 and November 17, 2015. Another set of remains was handed over to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) by a third party from the same region.
The remains recovered late last year are possibly associated with a B-24 bomber aircraft crash on January 25, 1944, where a crew of eight personnel assigned to the 14th Air Force, 308th Bomb Group were lost during a routine mission from Kunming, China to Chabua, India.
The remains that were handed over to DPAA are possibly related to a C-109 aircraft that crashed on July 17, 1945, while flying from Jorhat to Hsinching, China, with a four-man Army-Air Force crew.
Carter had yesterday expressed his gratitude to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and the Indian government for their support in facilitating the recovery effort.
The repatriation issue had figured in the joint statement issued last year during the visit of US President Barack Obama to India.
While the previous UPA government had stopped the recovery of remains following objections by China, which claims Arunachal Pradesh to be its territory, the Narendra Modi government gave Americans fresh permission.
The US is seeking to recover the bodies of American aircrew who died in crashes while flying resupply missions between Assam and Kunming in China during the war.
The US Department of Defense states that over 500 aircraft are still listed missing in the China-India-Burma theatre of the Second World War.
Multiple wreckage of aircraft were discovered north of Itanagar, south of Walong, upper Siang and at other sites in 2006 by a US-based private explorer, Clayton Kuhles.
After pressure from the families of the missing personnel, joint operations to recover the remains were started in late 2008.