Alaska News

Air Force identifies bodies of 2 more men killed in 1952 Alaska plane crash

The Air Force has released the names of two airmen who died in a 1952 plane crash in the Chugach Mountains that killed all 52 people onboard. The two men's remains were recovered in 2014, but a jurisdictional shift delayed the identification of the crash victims, prompting much criticism, including letters from Alaska, Missouri, and Florida Congress members.

The families of Air Force Capt. Walter Perrin Tribble and Airman 2nd Class Bernis F. White have been told of the discovery and offered military funerals, the Air Force said.

The two men died along with everyone else onboard the Globemaster C-124 after it slammed into Mount Gannett, which borders Colony Glacier. The plane was found a few days later, but shifting glacier ice and bad weather forced the Air Force to abandon the site.

The plane and the remains of some of those inside were rediscovered in 2012 by a passing helicopter pilot. Every summer since, armed forces recovery teams have trekked to the glacier to recover more remains and plane parts.

In January 2015, the Department of Defense shifted responsibility for the recovery efforts from the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs office and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner system, possibly delaying, by months, the release of identities associated with remains found on the glacier in 2014.

With the addition of Tribble and White, partial or full remains from 19 of the 52 victims have been recovered and identified. AFME spokeswoman Jennifer Vallee said that the process of identifying remains from the crash will continue and that two more identifications of remains found in 2014 could be announced in the coming weeks.

Vallee said that DNA testing, medical history comparisons and dental X-rays were used to identify the remains.

Additional remains found on the glacier this summer should be ready for identification and release within the next few months, Vallee said.

Sean Doogan

Sean Doogan is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News.