After 68 years and a long journey, the remains of a Redwood City man, missing in action from World War II, returned home Thursday to his family who plan to bury him with full military honors.
The family of Marine Corps Tech. Sgt. James A. Sisney, who was 19 years old when he died in in the war, plan to hold a funeral service for him Friday at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno.
"It's good to have him home," said his Sunnyvale nephew, Robert Sisney Jr. "It has been a long time...68 years." Sisney Jr. and other relatives were there to greet the arrival of his uncle's coffin at San Francisco International Airport Thursday morning.
The return home caps a chapter that began on April 22, 1944, when Sisney was aboard a PBJ-1 aircraft that never returned from a night training mission over the island of Espiritu Santo - the largest island in the South Pacific in what is known today as Vanuatu. He was with six other crew members when their twin-engine plane smashed into a cliff.
None of the seven Marines on the aircraft were recovered at that time, and in 1945 they were officially presumed dead.
The Defense Prisoner of War-Missing Personnel Office in Washington, D.C., said that in 1994, a group of private citizens notified the United States that aircraft wreckage had been found on the island. Some human remains were recovered from the site at that time and turned over to the Department of Defense.
Five years later, a survey team traveled to the site, which was located at an elevation of 2,600 ft. in extremely rugged terrain, and determined that recovery teams would need specialized mountain training to safely complete a recovery mission.
In 2000, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team visited the site and recovered more human remains. From 2009 to 2011, multiple JPAC recovery teams excavated the site and recovered additional remains, aircraft parts and military equipment.
Scientists and analysts used circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial DNA – which matched that of Sisney’s brother – in
the identification of his remains.
According to the government, more than 400,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II died. At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover, identify and bury approximately 79,000 as known persons. Today, more than 73,000 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the conflict.
"There are no words for it," Sisney Jr. told NBC Bay Area. "The sacrifice that too many man have made over the years."