Sinlung /
21 April 2011

American WWII Soldier's Remains Returns Home From Northeast India

A military honor guard escorts the remains of Mervyn Earl Sims from a Horizon / Alaska Airlines flight Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at the Charles M.Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa. Sims, an Army PFC from Petaluma, died in the rugged Himalayas in a plane crash 68 years ago during World War II.


Mervyn Earl Sims, an Army private who died in an airplane crash 68 years ago in the Himalayas, came home to Petaluma on a gray, rainy Wednesday afternoon.

Mervyn Earl Sims, as pictured in a 1938 yearbook picture.

Chrome-helmeted motorcyclists with the Healdsburg American Legion Post's Military Escort Team led a motorcade from the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport to Cypress Hill Memorial Park in Petaluma, where Sims will be buried Friday with full military honors.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders and Warrior Watch Riders on motorcycles and in vehicles accompanied Sims on the final leg of his trip from a remote mountain in northeast India to the cemetery where his parents and sister are interred.

Sims, 23, was one of the five crewmen aboard an Army cargo plane that crashed April 24, 1943 in the Himalayas, one of the nearly 600 aircraft lost during a World War II airlift over the world's highest mountain range between India and China.

Search efforts failed to find the men, who were declared dead in 1946.

Plane wreckage and Sims' remains, a few bones, were discovered in 2003 by Clayton Kuhles, a Prescott, Ariz. mountaineer who has found 19 crash sites in the Himalayas.

All of the planes, including Sims' craft, were flying the “Hump” the wartime term for the 500-mile route between bases in India that airlifted supplies to Chinese forces battling Japanese invaders.

The route, over ridges as high as 15,000 feet lashed by 100 mph winds, became known as the “aluminum trail” due to the number of wrecks that marked the way.

Sharon Roloff of Folsom, who is Sims' niece and next of kin, will attend Friday's funeral, along with friends, relatives and military veterans.

Roloff, who never knew her uncle, was notified in February that Sims had been identified, using a DNA sample that her mother, the late Virginia Rippe Burch, had provided to the Army in 2007.

Roloff said she chose the Petaluma cemetery, rather than a national cemetery in Dixon, because it would bring her uncle home.

Sims graduated from Petaluma High School in 1938 and enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1942.

A woman who will attend the funeral will bring a Cinnabar elementary school class photo of Sims, his niece said.

An Army sergeant brought Sims' cremated remains in a small urn aboard an Alaska Airlines flight that originated in Hawaii.

An honor guard of California National Guard soldiers in dress blue uniforms met the officer on the airport tarmac, and Sims traveled to Petaluma in a military van, accompanied by nine motorcycles and about seven vehicles.

Windsor and Rincon Valley firefighters saluted the procession along Airport Boulevard, and Petaluma police met the motorcade and cleared the way for it in Petaluma.

Sims' service will be at 1 p.m. Friday and is open to the public.



Gary said...

Thanks for publishing this article about the repatriation of PFC Mervyn Sims' remains to the US after the discovery of his crash site by Clayton Kuhles in 2003. His remains and those of his crew mates were returned to the US well before the current freeze on Arunachal recoveries imposed by India and the US as a result of pressure by Beijing. As a result, it's unlikely that remains of US servicemen from the dozens of other Arunachal crash sites will be returned in the near future, unfortunately.

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