Remains found at war pilot's Koolau crash site
A military team has concluded excavation of a crash site in the Koolau Mountains believed to be associated with a missing Navy pilot from World War II, officials said yesterday.
The team from the Honolulu-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command said it recovered possible human remains and material evidence.
For 62 years the remains of Ensign Harry "Bud" Warnke are believed to have lain at the site of his F6F-3 Hellcat.
Warnke's sister, Myrtle Tice, 86, who lives in Arizona, has said she is eager to bring closure to her brother's death and hoped to get his remains. The remains, once positively identified, are to be buried in the family plot with Warnke's mother and father in Westville, Ind.
The military's recovery operation began in July and was the first of its kind conducted in Hawaii.
About 80 tons of soil was removed from the remote site by helicopter. The soil was then taken by helicopter to Schofield Barracks, where it was examined for human remains and evidence of the missing pilot.
Recovered remains and material evidence are now undergoing forensic analysis to identify the victim, the military said. The analysis is expected to take several months.
On June 15, 1944, Warnke was reported missing after failing to return from a series of aerial dives. His unit located the crash site two days later.
According to military reports from the time, items and remains from the wreckage were collected and buried at the site shortly before Warnke's unit left the island to support World War II efforts.
In 1999, military historians examined records of the crash, and a team recovered evidence from the site.
Excavation at the site was delayed for years by environmental concerns, and year-round rainy conditions in the Koolaus have also been a factor.