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  AT-7 Navigator Serial Number 41-21079  
USAAF


Click For Enlargement
Peter Stekel 2007
Pilot  2nd Lt. William R. Gamber, 23 (MIA / KIA) Fayette, Ohio
Passenger  John M. Mortenson, 23 (MIA / KIA) Moscow, Idaho
Passenger  Ernest G. Munn, 23, (MIA / KIA, BR) St. Clairesville, Ohio
Passenger  Leo M. Mustonen, 22 (MIA / KIA, BR) Brainerd, MN
Crashed  November 18, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Beech Aircraft Corporation in Wichita, Kansas. Constructors Number 1094. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as AT-7 Navigator serial number 41-21079. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On November 18, 1942 at 8:30am took off from Mather Field near Sacramento piloted by 2nd Lt. William R. Gamber on a training flight bound for Corning in Tehama County to the north. Aboard were three student aviation cadets. There was no contact with the plane during the flight and failed to return. The aircraft had five hours of fuel aboard. When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as missing.

Search
When the aircraft failed to return, a search was initiated that day at 1:30pm and lasted for a month. No trace of the plane was ever found.

Wreckage
In fact, the plane crashed during a snow storm into a rock face above the Mendel Glacier in Kings Canyon National Park in Fresno County of California.

During 1947, the wreckage of this aircraft was discovered in a remote area of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks by a group of hikers including Sierra Club member William Bond. They discovered one of the engines, remains of the crew and personal effects. Returning, they reported the discovery to the authorities.

Recovery of Remains
Officials were unable to investigate the crash site until the following year. During 1948, the search team lead by Captain Roy Sulzbacher found a tag on one of the engines, which led them to identify it as the missing aircraft. The team recovered some remains of the crew.

On October 16, 2005, two hikers discover a glacier-entombed corpse wearing a flight suit with blonde, wavy hair wearing a tattered sweater. The remains were naturally mummified and dubbed the "ice man" in media reports. Nearby was an unopened parachute. Later in the month, the remains were recovered by a team JPAC and transported to the CILHI laboratory in Hawaii where an mDNA test conducted against family reference samples volunteered by the maternal relatives of the crew. During February 2006, the remains were officially identified as Leo M. Mustonen.

During August 2007, researcher Peter Stekel discovered the remains of a second body half exposed from the melting glacier, roughly 100' from where the body was found in 2005. On March 10, 2008 the US military confirmed by mDNA test these remains belonged to Ernest G. Munn.

Memorials
The entire crew was declared dead the day of the mission.

The remains located in 1948 were buried in a group burial at the Golden Gate National Cemetery at section F grave 43. The names of all four airmen are listed on the grave.

After the 2006 identification of Mustonen's remains, he was buried on March 24, 2006 at Evergreen Cemetery in Brainerd, Minnesota.

After the 2008 identification of Munn's remains, he was buried on May 17, 2008 at Holly Memorial Gardens in Pleasant Grove, OH.

Gamber also has a memorial marker at Pleasant View Union Cemetery in Fayette, Ohio.

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - Beech AT-7 41-21079
"21079 (MSN 1094, 341st School Squadron) disappeared Nov 18, 1942 in Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA. while on navigational training flight with 4 onboard. Plane wreckage found at Darwin Glacier, Mount Mendel in eastern Kings Canyon National Park, CA Nov 24, 1947. Body of one of the crewman may have been found Oct 2005."
LA Times "U.S. Airman Found Encased in Glacier After 60 Years" by Steve Chawkins October 19, 2005 via Wayback Machine October 23, 2005
SignOnSanDiego "Body found in Sierra Nevada glacier believed to be WWII airman" October 19, 2005 by Associated Press (AP) via Wayback Machine March 16, 2006
San Diego Union "Remains found on glacier believed to be those of (another) WWII airman" August 21, 2007
CNN "Frozen remains of WWII airman identified" March 11, 2008
CBS Affiliate / UPN 31 (Video Clip) web page removed
Final Flight (2010) by Peter Stekel
FindAGrave - William R. Gamber (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - William R. Gamber (memorial marker)
FindAGrave - John M. Mortenson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Leo M. Mustonen (group burial photo)
FindAGrave - Leo M. Mustonen (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Ernest Glenn Munn (group burial photo, photos)
FindAGrave - Ernest Glenn Munn (grave photo)
Thanks to Peter Stekel for additional information

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Last Updated
November 17, 2021

 

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