- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001

The 10-man crew of a long-missing bomber from World War II was laid to rest yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, closing the final chapter of a 57-year-old mystery.

About 75 of the crew's relatives many of whom were not yet born when the servicemen died attended a somber funeral at Fort Myer. Only one widow of a member of the crew was present, Violet Mertz, 84, of Salina, Kan.

She was given the folded flag from the casket containing the remains of Army 2nd Lt. Edward M. Sparks, of Alton, Kan. Their son, Douglas Sparks, 57, of Littleton, Colo., placed a hand on her shoulder in consolation. Mrs. Mertz remarried after Lt. Sparks was declared dead in 1946.

The remains of the other Army Air Corps soldiers were interred together in another casket. Nine soldiers in full-dress uniforms formally presented flags to their next of kin.

Other crew members were 2nd Lt. Raymond J. Drewelow, of Waterloo, Iowa; 2nd Lt. James H. Nelson, of Tallulah, La.; Staff Sgt. Arthur J. Swartz Jr., of Aurora, Ill; Staff Sgt. Joel G. Williams, of Danville, Va.; Sgt. Anthony G. Scaccia, of New Orleans; Sgt. William E. Van Camp, of South Bend, Ind.; Staff Sgt. Salvatore J. Elhai, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; 2nd Lt. George R. Ellison, of Danville, Va.; and Sgt. Gilbert F. Smith, of Princeton, Ind.

The soldiers served on a B-24D Liberator bomber nicknamed "Ready, Willing and Able," which disappeared in a thunderstorm March 5, 1944, over Papua New Guinea.

Piloted by Lt. Dremelow, the bomber had taken off with a squadron at 11:17 p.m. from Nadzab, Papua New Guinea, on a mission to bomb Japanese targets in the Hansa Bay area of Papua New Guinea. No one heard from Ready, Willing and Able again.

After World War II ended in 1945, a U.S. graves registration unit searched for a crash site or graves of the bomber crew and found nothing. The men were declared dead Jan. 25, 1946.

Forty-three years later, European tourists trekking over a mountain range in the Mandang province of New Guinea saw the tail of an old bomber sticking up in the brush. The tail number was that of Ready, Willing and Able.

Roger Shortridge of Atlanta yesterday said the wreckage was about 100 feet below the top of the mountain, an indication the bomber was flying too low on that rainy night.

Mr. Shortridge's wife, Sandra, is a niece of the crew's bombardier, Lt. Ellison.

"All we know, he didn't come back," Jeff Elhai, 49, of Richmond, said of his uncle, Sgt. Elhai.

Although officials were certain the bomber's tail was that of the missing aircraft, the Army waited until it was certain of the remains and that all crew members were in the wreckage.

Between July 1989 and August 1990, three teams of the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii located, investigated and excavated the site.

The remains were transported to Hawaii, where DNA testing confirmed the identity of each crew member.

More than 260,000 people, most from wars fought by Americans, are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. About 3,800 of the graves are for former slaves from the Civil War.

About 78,000 service members are still listed as missing from World War II.

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