Three "unknowns" may be Flying Tigers
On Monday, four graves at the Punchbowl national cemetery outside Honolulu were exhumed and the remains taken away for DNA testing. The bodies came from the former St. Luke's graveyard in Toungoo, Burma, and three of them very likely were the pilots killing in training accidents in September and October of 1941, as they prepared for combat with the Japanese air forces in China. The relatives of Pete Atkinson, John Armstrong, and Maax Hammer have tried for years to repatriate the graves, but it turned out that all along they had been on American soil. They were exhumed after the war, temporarily buried in India, and then moved to Honolulu, where they were listed as "unknown." That may cease to be the case in a month or two, when testing is concluded.
Atkinson and Hammer joined the American Volunteer Group from the U.S. Army, while Armstrong was a former Navy aviator. Not often noted is that the Flying Tigers lost only four pilots to enemy action in air-to-air combat. That almost as many were killed in training accidents is testimony to the hazards of flying a 1940s warplane.
It's a puzzle whose remains are in the fourth casket, but most likely a civilian or British military resident of Toungoo, included by error in the postwar repatriation.