Remains of missing World War II soldier return to Calif.

SAN BRUNO, Calif. — A California soldier who died during World War II will be buried near his boyhood home this week after the former Marine’s remains were discovered on a remote island in the South Pacific.

James Austin Sisney and six other crew members died on April 22, 1944, when their twin-engine plane crashed into a mountain during a night training mission, the San Mateo County Times (http://bit.ly/NjJZem) reported Monday.

Not long after the crash, a team of soldiers found the wreckage on Espiritu Santo, the largest island in the archipelago nation now known as Vanuatu. They found human remains and buried them near the crash site.

“It obviously exploded upon impact, instantly killing all personnel, and then burned,” Maj. John Palmer, commander of the aircraft group, wrote in a report about the accident.

But that report disappeared in the confusion of war. The wreckage was overtaken by jungle and forgotten by all but the local residents.

The missing soldiers’ relatives did not know the plane’s whereabouts until 2007, when one of them tracked down and unearthed the wreckage on the steep mountainside. The military excavated it and the soldiers’ identities were confirmed through DNA.

Sisney grew up in Livermore and Redwood City and joined the Marines in December 1942 when he was 17, becoming part of a bombing squadron known as the Seahorse Marines. He was 19 when his plane failed to clear the summit of a mountain on the South Pacific island.

Sisney’s coffin will arrive at San Francisco International Airport on Thursday. A portion of his remains will be buried with full military honors at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno on Friday. A ceremony for the entire crew will take place at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in October.

“I guess you could say it’s a little bit of closure,” said Robert Sisney Jr., of Sunnyvale, the man’s nephew and one of a handful of surviving relatives. “It makes me feel real good … proud to be American.”

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