A WORLD WAR II SAILOR who had been missing since his torpedo bomber was shot down 79 years ago has been interred with full military honors Monday in his hometown of Seaside.

The remains of U.S. Navy Aviation Radioman First Class Wilbur A. Mitts were discovered in the western Pacific in 2021 and identified in February, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said.

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta joined Navy officials for Mitts’ funeral at Mission Memorial Park.

Mitts, 24, was one of three crew members on a TBM-1C Avenger that took off from the USS Enterprise on Sept. 10, 1944, according to the POW/MIA agency.

Their aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft fire and crashed into the sea near Malakal Island in Palau, a group of islands east of the Philippines. The plane and its crew could not be found.

Exhaustive searches of battle areas and crash sites, concluding in the summer of 1947, could not find any evidence of Mitts or his aircraft, the POW/MIA agency said. 

Six more investigations conducted from 2003 to 2018 by Project Recover, a nonprofit organization that searches for missing Americans, and the POW/MIA agency, identified a possible site.

Excavations in May 2019 and September 2021 recovered remains and other evidence that was sent to a government laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, for examination.

On Feb. 23, scientists identified Mitts using dental analysis and mitochondrial DNA analysis, the POW/MIA agency said.

Mitts’ name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.