The remains of suspected American airmen killed in Myanmar during World War II were repatriated to the United States on Tuesday in the first-ever ceremony of its kind in the Southeast Asian nation, US officials said.
The remains of hundreds of American military personnel are still unaccounted for in Myanmar, a key conflict arena in Asia between the Allies and Japan during World War II.
The remains repatriated on Tuesday are believed to be linked to a crashed B-25G aircraft in February 1944 in the Salingyi area of the northwest Sagaing region.
The wreckage was found in an investigation two years later, but the graves could not be located.
A ceremony was held at Mandalay International Airport late Tuesday afternoon.
White-gloved servicemen saluted before loading a flag-draped coffin bearing the remains onto a C-17 military plane.
"This ceremony is a reminder of the deep, enduring, historical connections between our two countries that date back to even before Myanmar’s independence," said US Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel.
"These men and women represent the best of who we are. They are our nation’s greatest and most precious resource."
The remains were found during a recent recovery mission conducted by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and will be sent to a forensics lab in Hawaii for further analysis.
DPAA works under the US Department of Defense and aims to account for the more than 82,000 missing service men and women from conflicts dating back to World War II.
There are currently 632 US service members still unaccounted for in Myanmar from World War II and DPAA has so far identified 14 missing service members.