Hoosier airman’s remains heading back home 60 years later

ELWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — It’s an amazing story of loss, discovery and at long last closure for one Hoosier family.

It’s a story 60 years in the making and it stretches from near Elwood, Indiana all the way to a cold, isolated glacier in Alaska. A scrap book of pictures contain the memories Paul Martin has of his older brother Howard Eugene Martin.

“I had his hat on,” Paul said, as he pointed to a picture in the book.

Howard was the oldest of the seven Martin kids, about two years older than Paul, born and raised near Tipton and Elwood Indiana.

“November the 22nd. It will be etched in my mind for the rest of my life,” said Paul.

That’s the day Howard died.

Howard, who joined the Air Force during the Korean War, was flying on a C-124 Globemaster, going from a base near Seattle, to one in Anchorage. The plane never made it, crashing in bad weather into an Alaskan glacier peak.

It was November 22, 1952. Fifty-two people died in the wreck.

“I was at my fiance’s house, and it came over the news — about the accident,” Paul said.

Howard’s sister Fran Williams was 7 at the time.

“We were at school, and they called us at school, and we came home. And they had some military people there,” she said.

While the wreckage was found shortly after the crash, bad weather and tough terrain made recovery efforts impossible. But in 2012, an Alaskan Army National Guard Unit spotted the wreckage from the air and a recovery team was sent down.

“All these items that we have here, are items in that billfold,” said Paul, pointing to the billfold discovered on the glacier.

Howard Martin’s billfold was recovered. In it, his drivers license, social security card, even a withholding statement from his paycheck. With DNA samples provided by the family, they got the word there were remains found as well.

Mike Williams, Howard’s brother-in-law, has been looking into the crash since 2008.

“A lock of hair is what’s come back. That’s it. And most of the other people’s got a bone fragment. Not very much,” he said.

But enough, to bring closure to 60 years of wondering. Paul Martin uses his faith to explain the discovery of his brother’s remains.

“There are some things that happen in the darkness, either good or bad. That will be revealed to us and shouted from the rooftops. That day I shouted,” he said, with tears in his eyes.

The positive identification of Howard Martin’s remains was made on April 18, 2014. He was declared dead that day. It is also his birthday. He would have been 83.

Howard’s remains will arrive in Indianapolis with full military honors in mid-July. The family will have a funeral and burial for him in Elwood.

After his disappearance his parents purchased a cemetery plot for him expecting that eventually he would be found.

His six siblings are all still living.

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