ZEELAND, Mich. – A soldier who died when a B-25 bomber went down in Papua New Guinea during World War II has been laid to rest in his western Michigan hometown nearly eight decades after his death.
Dozens of relatives and local residents who had never met U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. LaVerne “Dirk” Van Dyke attended Thursday's funeral at the Zeeland Cemetery, WOOD-TV reported.
The Zeeland resident and six fellow crew members were declared missing and presumed dead after their B-25 went down in 1943 over Papua New Guinea, a southwest Pacific nation located north of Australia.
In 1998, an American who specializes in searching for lost World War II aircraft found the remains in a remote area of Papua New Guinea. Van Dyke's remains were not positively identified for another 20 years.
His great nephew, Steve Klomparen, said the return of Van Dyke’s identified remains to the soldier's hometown brings his family closure.
“It also shows the extent to which the military’s tradition of bringing everybody home to rest with their relatives and so on is conducted these days,” he said.