Nearly 65 Years Later: Air Force veteran’s body returns home for hero’s welcome in Beloit


UPDATE (WKOW) — It’s a homecoming more than 60 years in the making. The community of Beloit, coming together as they pay tribute to a fallen veteran who is now home.

Firefighters, police officers and other first responders lined the streets along with several residents as a hearse carrying the remains of Airman First Class George Ingram drove slowly down the streets of Beloit.

“It’s way long overdue,” said veteran Robert Pokorney who brought his family out to pay their respects. “I hope it lets them know that the people care. The community really, truly cares. This community is very supportive of their service members.”

In 1952, Ingram was flying to Alaska when his plane crashed. He wouldn’t be found until decades later. But now, he’s home.

It was a scene veteran Bruce Slagoski described as remarkable.

“To see this, to see him actually come home, it’s special. It gives everybody chills just the thought of putting him to rest and get this man home to where he belongs,” Slagoski said.

Beloit fire chief Brad Liggett hopes bringing Ingram to his final resting place can bring closure to the family.

“He served honorably with distinction and is now home so the whole family can celebrate his life and his legacy,” Liggett said.

An important journey home, not only to his family but to fellow veterans as well.

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A 1/C George Marion Ingram

A 1/C George Marion Ingram, 23, formerly of Pontotoc, Mississippi, and Beloit, Wisconsin, died on November 22, 1952, when the U.S. Air Force C-124 he was aboard crashed near Anchorage, Alaska.

George was born on March 10, 1929 in Pontotoc, Mississippi, the son of Frank C. and Viola H. (Howard) Ingram. When George was a teenager the family moved to Beloit, Wisconsin and became members of Emmanuel Baptist church. Many of the Ingram family are still members to this day. As a young man George enlisted into the United States Air Force and attained the rank of A1C (Airman First Class).

On July 26, 1951 George was assigned to the 34th Air Transport Squadron at McChord Air Force Base in Washington. He was scheduled to be part of the crew on the flight of a Douglas C-124 Globemaster departing on November 22, 1925 from McChord Air Force Base and scheduled to land at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. On the flight manifest George was listed as the “Loadmaster”. During the flight it is documented that the aircraft encountered extremely severe weather conditions. Around 4pm on November 22, 1952, a distress call from the C-124 was faintly heard by a Northwest Orient Airlines Commercial flight. The reception was poor, but the Northwest captain made out the sentence: “As long as we have to land, we might as well land here.” No further communication from the Air Force C-124 was ever heard again and subsequently the plane never arrived at Elmendor

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Celebration of Life Service for Airman 2nd Class Bateman R. Burns


This past weekend I had the chance to attend the Celebration of Life Service for Airman 2nd Class Bateman R. Burns. Airman Burns was returned to his home town in West Helena, AR. As I pulled up to the cemetery I looked at all the people who showed up to welcome him after 64 years. Some knowing him, some only knowing the stories told about him, and those not knowing him but wanted to show their respect to the fallen soldier.

One by one family members came up and spoke about the man Airman Burns was. How he treated others growing up and every time he came home for leave. This spoke volume to me on the man he was and the man he might have been.

I had the pleasure to meet his youngest sister Mrs. Christine “Teenie” Manning. She stood up, turned to the crowd and told a story of their mother’s love. Holding out on hope that he would one day return home. Telling the family maybe he has amnesia but one day he will remember and return home. This is a story I have heard so many times before. My grandmother spent a big part of her life thinking the same thing.

I sat and watched as Nathan Burns (the eldest nephew/niece of Airman Burns) sat up in his chair, slowly bringing his hand up to his forehead; while Airman Kelley presented the flag to him. I could not help but tear up even though I have seen this several times before. A very proud nephew!

I want to thank Airman Kelley for escorting Airman Burns home to his final resting place, Rubin with Air Force Mortuary Affairs for making this Celebration of Life complete, The Robert Darr Post 88 for allowing the family to gather after the Celebration, and Mrs. Vonda Burns for inviting little old me.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” ~ M.S. Forbes

Airman Bateman R. Burns, this past weekend I was able to hear your true Character and I am thankful to your family for allowing me experience this.

Thank You for your Ultimate Sacrifice. Welcome home Sir
~ Tonja Anderson-Dell


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Attending the services of Airman Thomas Condon



I remembered when I received an email in 2011 from John Condon. He stated he was the nephew of Airman Thomas Condon and was hoping to get some information about the crash. He had been doing some research and came across the facebook page. I was very happy to provide as his father William Condon (brother of Airman Condon) was coming to visit and he wanted to share it with him.

When I heard the news that Airman Thomas Condon was ID and coming home there was a smile on my face. Another set of siblings lived long enough to see their brother make it back home to his true final resting place. On the 25th of May Airman Condon made his way home to Waukesha, WI.

Walking into St. John’s Catholic Church, I stood in line to greet the family, and I looked around at all the people that came to welcome him home. Row after Row was filled with people. In the last row was the daughter and her family of PVT Kittle. Kittle died on the plane with Airman Condon and Airman Anderson. This was a special moment for me because PVT Kittle’s home coming was the 1st service I attended in 2014. I stepped out of line and give Ms. Linda a hug. It meant so much for me to see them there. All these men died together aboard the C-124 and after their death their families has become somewhat of a support system for each other.

When it was my turn to finally meet his brother William and sister Marian, all we could do was smile at each other. Even if no other words were said we were all glad to see each other. At the end of the service a brother and sister walked behind their older brother casket with smiles of joy.
It is always nice to hear a little about the airman and their life before the crash. Airman Condon was a little funny because the story was told he loved to work on cars, tractors, etc… but once they did the math he was only 10 or 11 years old when he found his passion. lol

I want to thanks Ruben Garza with Airforce Mortuary Affairs, Staff Sgt. Mario Super for escorting Airman Condon home, Fr. Bustos with St John Church, Tuscan Hall Banquet Center for allowing the family to gather and tell the wonderful family stories, John Condon for allowing me to attend and witness this all.
“Memorial Day this year is especially important as we are reminded almost daily of the great sacrifices that the men and women of the armed services make to defend our way of life.” — Robin Hayes

Airman Thomas Condon, you have come home to your family close to Memorial Day and it holds true to Robin Hayes Quote. Welcome home Sir and Thank You for making that sacrifice. ~Tonja Anderson



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After 64 years, Airman Thomas Condon is being laid to rest



JEFFERSON — After more than six decades, a Jefferson woman’s brother, who died in an Alaska military airplane crash during the Korean War, will be laid to rest.

 Airman 2nd Class Thomas Condon was among 52 servicepersons who perished Nov. 22, 1952, when the Douglas C-124 Globemaster in which they were flying crashed into Knik Glacier 50 miles northeast of Anchorage, Alaska.

Condon, 19, was the brother of Marian (Tom) Atkinson of Jefferson. His remains, identified through a DNA match in March, will be buried with full military honors on Wednesday, May 25, in Waukesha.

The heavy-lift cargo plane — affectionately nicknamed “Old Shaky” because of the racket from its big piston engines — was heading from McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Wash., to Joint Air Force Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage and had passed Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska south of Prince William Sound when it disappeared with its 41 passengers and 11-member crew.

With giant bay doors under its nose, the Globemaster was the largest cargo plane in the American airfleet back then, the sole aircraft able to transport a tank, bulldozer or 200 soldiers. On this flight, it carried 52 men, mostly Air Force and Army personnel and at least one from the Marine Corps and one from the Navy.

Historians have said that the weather was inclement and the crew was flying blind. As it traveled above the Chugach Mountains, only minutes away from its destination and apparently avoiding many peaks, the massive airplane suffered a malfunction and began losing altitude.

At about 4 p.m., the captain of a Northwest Orient Airlines passenger plane picked up a distress call. He reportedly deciphered a scratchy radio signal over his headset that said, “As long as we have to land, we might as well land here.”

The airplane then struck the mountain.

A member of the Fairbanks Civil Air Patrol and a member of the 10th Air Rescue Squadron, according to an Associated Press report from 1952, first identified the wreck six days later.

After returning from the site, the civil air patrol lieutenant — then-University of Alaska President Terris Moore — told reporters that the plane “obviously was flying at full speed” when it struck Mount Gannett, the elevation of which is 9,100 feet. The airplane appeared to have slid down the cliffs and exploded, throwing wreckage across several acres.

At the time, the tail was intact enough for identification. However, the wreck quickly sank deeper into the glacier, and by the time a rescue team was able to hike there, there was no trace of it.

The Alaska News reported in 2012 that Douglas Beckstead, historian for the 673rd Air Base Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, reviewed copies of the official reports on the incident.  ~By Christine Spangler


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Airman Second Class Conrad Sprague


I was not able to attend the services of Airman Second Class Conrad Sprague but I am glad Airman Jimenez did a story.

A ceremonial guardsman wearing white gloves raises his hand to render a salute as a white sedan pulls up to the curb. He proceeds to the vehicle where he respectfully retrieves an urn containing the remains of a fellow comrade. The urn holds the remains of Airman Second Class Conrad Sprague that were presented to his family during an honors ceremony May 10 at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington.

Sprague was one of 11 crewmembers and 41 passengers on board a C-124 Globemaster II that crashed into Mount Gannet, Alaska while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord AFB, Wash., on Nov. 22, 1952.

For the last 63 years Sprague has been missing in action until earlier this year when his remains were identified by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner at Dover AFB, Delaware.

“The last thing I remember is seeing him the day he got on the plane, “said Denis Sprague, surviving son of Airman 2nd Class Conrad Sprague and Army sergeant first class retiree. “For all this time he has been MIA — we never got an official ceremony.”

Since the crash of the aircraft no service members from the flight were recovered until after June of 2012 when an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk crew spotted aircraft wreckage and debris while conducting a training mission over Colony Glacier, immediately west of Mount Gannett.

Since being discovered, recovery operations have taken place every summer resulting in the finding of the remains of 17 Airmen including Sprague.

“We heard the news in 2013 and were asked to provide DNA samples,” said Denis. “I got notified six months ago that they had uncovered three pieces of my father’s remains.”

Medical examiners from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used testing done by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, along with other forensic evidence, in the identification of Sprague’s remains.

“All I’ve ever had to hold unto was a piece of the plane that was recovered,” said Denis. “That’s as close as I’ve been able to come to it.”

Because Sprague died while serving he was given a full military honors ceremony. The ceremony included a firing party, a flag folding ceremony, presenting of the colors and the playing of Taps.

“The reason this was special is because we got to bring a fellow Airman home,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Nolan, McChord Field Honor Guard NCO in charge. “It shows the Air Force does care. After decades missing he was brought back — to me that’s special.”

“This was something he deserved — it’s a right he earned for his service,” said Senior Airman Matthew Feigum, McChord Field Honor Guard ceremonial guardsmen. “I hope this provided them a little more closure than they had before.”

For Denis the ceremony was a long anticipated event that would provide the conclusion to that point in his family’s history.

“The closure is the most important thing,” said Denis. “I wanted some closure on this part of my life that was left wide open for so long. I had some recollection of what happened but was never able to say goodbye.”

A Washington native, Airman Second Class Conrad Sprague was survived by his wife Dorothy Jean and his three children Denis, Christopher and Constance. Sprague is no stranger to the community and is related to one of the City of Tacoma’s founders and Medal of Honor recipient Brig. General John Sprague.

To Sprague’s family he died a hero and deserved the honor he received.

“He was a true hero because he died doing what he thought was right — just like we all are willing to do who put on the uniform.” said Denis.
~Story by by Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez , 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


Franklin County soldier’s remains returned home after being found in glacier


FRANKLIN COUNTY, MO (KTVI) – A mystery buried in an Alaska glacier has been solved for a Franklin County family as the remains of a U.S. Air Force Tech Sergeant were discovered in a field of snow and ice.

Sgt. Leonard Unger died more than six decades ago in a military plane crash. On Thursday afternoon his remains were carried by a white hearse down the interstates toward his final resting place. About two dozen Patriot Guard members escorted the airman.

“It was horrible. It was horrible. We didn’t know what to think,” said Theresa Boland, Sgt. Unger’s sister.

She won’t ever forget the day Sgt. Unger died. Theresa was his baby sister, he was the oldest of eight children; she the youngest. She has fond memories.

“He would get in the car and take me for a ride and that was a big thrill for me,” she said.

The joy turned to sadness in November 1952. Unger was riding in a C-124 Globemaster along with 51 other people, when the plane crashed into Mount Gannett in Alaska. Grief gripped the family as they prayed for a miracle that never came. Their pride in him only grew stronger.

“He was a great inspiration for all of us. We loved him very much,” Boland said.

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Soldier returns home after 63 years – Victim of Alaska plane crash in 1952

Airman Second Class Bateman Burns

Military reports described the weather that night as “brutal.” As the flight of the C-124 Globemaster U.S. Army airplane made its way through the snow, thick clouds and ice, the crew was literally flying blind.

Aboard the plane on this November 22, 1952 flight were 11 military crewmen, and 41military personnel passengers, including Airman Second Class Bateman Burns of Marvell, en route to Joint Base Elemdorf-Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska. The flight originated from McChord Air Force Base, Washington. Alaskan historian Doug Beckstead reported that just minutes away from their destination, the crew was using only an altimeter, a stopwatch and a radio signal to find their way home.

Suddenly, the massive C-124 Globemaster suffered some type of malfunction and began to lose altitude. This is known because according to Stars & Stripes reporters Casey Grove and Mike Dunham a nearby Northwest pilot heard a somewhat garbled radio signal on his headset that said, “As long as we have to land, we might as well land here.”

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Captain Kenneth James Duvall

Capt Kenneth Duvall

 Captain, Kenneth James Duvall, 37 at the time, was a native of San Francisco, and a 1934 graduate of Vallejo (CA) High School. He resided with his aunt, Sadie Lou, in Litchfield while attending Arizona State College with his brothers, Claude and Allan. Ken graduated with a degree in accounting in 1939. He entered the infantry in 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He transferred to the Air Force and attended Officers Candidate School. He distinguished himself as a B17 bomber pilot, completing his 25th mission one week before the Normandy invasion. He returned to the US and flew transport missions between Florida and Cuba. 



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