When the plane carrying Pvt. James Green, a Georgia native, crashed in Alaska on Nov. 22, 1952, there were only 48 stars on the American flag, and Alaska still was a United States territory that had not yet been considered for statehood.
On Thursday morning, when Green’s remains arrived in his home state, the flag that draped his casket was emblazoned with 50 stars, signifying just one of the many changes that have transpired in the 62 years since the 21-year-old Wheeler County man and 51 others went missing in the Colony Glacier, about 40 miles outside Anchorage.
The plane-crash site was discovered in June 2012, when a National Guard helicopter crew on a training exercise spotted the wreckage, which long had been forgotten. Green’s body and the remains of 16 other victims recently were recovered, identified and returned home to waiting family members.
Green’s distant cousin, Esco Hall Jr., who was 4 years old at the time of the plane crash, never met the lost soldier and vaguely remembers family members talking about him. Hall received Green’s remains during a brief homecoming ceremony at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.
Hall said Green was on his way home to be with his wife, Vera Green, who gave birth but the baby had died.
Green was on a transport plane headed from an airbase in Washington state to Alaska at the time of the accident. The plane crashed into Mount Gannett and rescue crews at the time attempted to locate the wreckage without success.
When the remains of 17 of the passengers were recovered, Hall said Green’s family was notified based on identification discovered on his remains, including his wallet that contained a driver’s license and military identification.
“The Army contacted his sisters,” Hall said, “and used DNA from him and them to positively identify him,” effectively ending Green’s long journey home.
Hall, who owns the Baxley Funeral Home, allowed his cousin’s remains to lie in repose until Friday afternoon, when Green’s body was taken to Spaulding Grove Missionary Baptist, where other relatives and friends gathered for a remembrance. On Saturday, a service and burial were conducted at Horne Mission Cemetery.
Green, who was born in November 1931, would have been 83.
After an hour long homecoming service in the Spaulding Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Alamo, Georgia, Green, with a caravan of vehicles following the hearse carrying his flag-draped casket, was driven through the winding roads and hills of Wheeler County to his final resting place in Horne Missionary Cemetery.
Pastor Marvin Blue commended the military for leaving no man behind.