By Tennessee Ledger Staff
Sgt. Donal C. Aiken died during World War II when his B-29 crashed after a bombing raid in Japan.
NASHVILLE-TENN. (Tennessee Ledger)—The long-awaited closure for the family of a World War II soldier is finally here as the remains of U.S. Army Air Forces Sgt. Donal C. Aiken, missing for 79 years, have been identified and are set to return home to Nashville for a solemn burial.
Sgt. Aiken’s journey back to his family began when he tragically lost his life on June 26, 1944. At the time, he was part of the crew on a B-29 Superfortress, which crashed into an Indian rice paddy while returning from a bombing mission targeting an iron and steel plant in Yawata, Kyushu Island, Japan. The catastrophic crash claimed the lives of all 11 crew members on board, including Aiken.
However, despite the passage of time, Aiken’s remains were not among the seven initially recovered from the crash site. On January 2, 1948, he was declared “non-recoverable,” leaving his family without answers or closure for decades.
The turning point in this heart-wrenching story came in October 2014 when a joint field activity was organized in the village of Sapekhati. During this operation, wreckage and equipment from Sgt. Aiken’s ill-fated B-29 were recovered. Even more significantly, new human remains were discovered, eventually confirmed to be Aiken’s through meticulous mitochondrial DNA analysis.
On a poignant Friday, September 29, 79 years after his tragic death, Sgt. Aiken’s remains were brought back to Nashville. The dignified transfer occurred in an urn, marking a solemn and respectful return for the fallen soldier.
The ultimate closure and honor for Sgt. Aiken will take place on Saturday, September 30, as he is laid to rest at Nashville National Cemetery. The ceremony will be attended by his surviving family members, who will finally have the opportunity to bid a proper farewell to their beloved relative who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country during World War II.
This poignant reunion and the final resting place for Sgt. Donal C. Aiken serve as a powerful reminder of the enduring commitment of our nation to bring closure to the families of those who gave their lives in service to their country, no matter how many years have passed.