In todays OC register. Welcome home!
Burying Uncle Bud – 67 years later | ray, gideon, remains - News - The Orange County Register
The link has several pictures.
FULLERTON – In his last letter home, Claude "Bud" Ray wrote of his eagerness to return to Kansas for a white Christmas.
A tail gunner aboard a B-24D Liberator, Ray had spent most of 1943 flying missions out of Papua New Guinea, and he longed for home after a year in the jungle.
Shortly after writing the letter, Ray's plane disappeared during a storm, and for nearly 67 years his family was left wondering exactly what happened.
On Monday, more than six decades after his bomber was lost, Ray's remains are being flown to California for burial. The event is an answer to a nearly life-long prayer by his niece, Fullerton resident Karen Gideon.
"There was always the hope we would learn something," Gideon said.
Her family's most painful question was answered by an unexpected discovery in the jungle, modern science, and a unit of the military dedicated to identifying fallen service members and bringing them home.
One last flight
Gideon, 74, was only 6 when "Uncle Bud" signed up for the U.S. Army Air Forces, but her memories of him are vivid.
Ray was close to his family, a good uncle, the kind of guy who wrote individual letters to his little niece and nephew back home in Kansas. He planned to buy a farm and live near his parents when he returned from war.
He was deployed with the "Jolly Rogers" 5th Air Force, 90th Bomb Group, flying on a number of combat missions and earning a Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Oak Leaf Clusters and a Purple Heart.
Ray's crew had completed its combat mission and was preparing to return to the United States in October 1943, when Ray volunteered for one last flight.
During his time in the Pacific, Ray had suffered a bout of malaria, making him about three hours short of his crew's 300-hour service mission, Gideon said.
So when the tail gunner for his replacement crew became ill, Ray volunteered to go for the man who was to take his place. Fellow crewmembers begged him not to go; he had done his job, it was time to go home. Ray went anyway.
On Oct. 27, 1943, Ray flew out of Port Moresby, New Guinea on a reconnaissance mission with the new crew. The plane ran into foul weather, and radio contact was lost shortly after the plane was instructed to return to base. Ray was 25 years old.
Search crews were sent out, but no trace of the plane or its 12 crew members was found.
For a while there was some small hope that perhaps Ray had survived – the military even received reports that he might be in a Japanese POW camp.
When that was disproven, there was nothing but a lingering sadness.
"There was never any burial, so it was just something that hung in the air," Gideon said.
Ray's mother would get up and leave the room when "White Christmas" came on.
Ray's parents passed away. So did his siblings. Most of the family moved from Kansas to California.
Gideon and her brother, Burt Risser, are perhaps the last immediate surviving family members who knew Ray personally.
According to the Department of Defense, there are currently 83,918 servicemen and women listed as Missing in Action from past conflicts. Of those, 74,064 are from WWII.
In an effort to bring as many of those service members home, the military branches have combined efforts to create the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
Last year JPAC – which has a staff of about 400 and what it claims is the largest forensic anthropology laboratory in the world – identified the remains of 98 service members, including 53 from WWII.
In 2004, JPAC contacted Gideon and told her the search for her uncle's remains was ongoing, and they would like a DNA sample from the family on file – just in case.
What Gideon didn't know at the time was that in 2003, a local villager had discovered the remains of Ray's plane in a remote and dense jungle area of Papua New Guinea.
"I don't think they wanted to give us false hope," said, Gideon, who heard nothing after giving the DNA sample.
In 2007, a JPAC crew spent three months at the crash site, digging and sifting for remains.
Then, two months ago, the military called to set up an appointment with Gideon and Risser: They had identified Ray's remains and those of the other crewmen, and would be flying him home.
On Wednesday, the 67th anniversary of Ray's disappearance, Gideon and Risser will escort their uncle's remains to Riverside National Cemetery. Ray will be buried with full military honors, not far from the burial site of a sister he never got to say goodbye to.
In the spring, the siblings will fly to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where the military is erecting a memorial to the crew. All unidentifiable remains from the crash site will be buried together in a shared casket at the memorial.
"It's a relief to know his remains are coming back to his country, so we can honor him," Risser said.
Contact the writer: 714-704-3719 or firstname.lastname@example.org