Plane of WW II flyer from London found in Himalayas

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Sixty-five years after his plane went missing over northern India, the mystery of what happened to a Madison County airman from World War II is likely solved.

In recent days, surviving relatives of U.S. Army 2nd Lt. John W. Funk Jr. learned that a nonprofit organization founded by Arizona businessman Clayton Kuhles located the wreckage of Funk’s long-missing C-87 transport last fall on a jungle-covered mountain in India’s Arunachal Province.

Kuhles is the founder of MIA Recoveries and conducts annual expeditions to Burma, India, Bangladesh and China in search of aircraft lost while flying “the Hump,” an infamous air route over the Himalayas that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Allied airmen during World War II.

On Oct. 3, Kuhles’ party discovered remnants of a C-87 cargo plane believed to be Funk’s. They were led to the wreckage by area villagers who remembered walking to the crash site and burying the plane’s five crew members more than a half century ago.

According to the MIA Recoveries Web site, the plane disappeared on a flight from Yangkai, China to Jorhat, India in August 1943. Aside from Funk, who was the plane’s navigator, crew members included Captain Tom Perry, the pilot; Lt. John T. Tennison, the co-pilot; Staff Sargent Alvin J. Lenox, the radioman; and Corporal Donald A. Johnson, the crew chief.

Kuhles said it is now up to JPAC to bring the remains of the fallen airmen home. His organization, which is funded through private donations, has worked since 2001 to locate plane wrecks in “the Hump.” Thus far, he has documented 15 crash sites and the remains of more than 100 men. The information he obtained was turned over to surviving families and JPAC for further action.

“All five families (of the C-87) have now been contacted,” Kuhles said. “They have put together a form letter that friends and family members can send to their Congressional representatives, encouraging the government to recover the remains.”

He noted that JPAC spends about 90 percent of its resources on recovering U.S. soldiers lost in Vietnam, with only about 10 percent focused on those from World War II. He said it generally takes intense media and family pressure to influence government action on recoveries from that earlier war.

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