Kansas soldier killed in 1952 plane crash brought home
Caney Services are planned this weekend for a Kansas soldier who was among those killed when a military transport plane crashed into an Alaska mountain more than 60 years ago.
Earlier this week, the Department of Defense released the identities of 17 people among the 52 people onboard the C-124 Globemaster, which crashed in 1952. The department was able to identify the victims after the glacier shifted two years ago, releasing the remains.
DNA testing in April confirmed the identity of Army Pvt. Leonard Kittle, who will be buried today next to his mother’s grave at the Sunnyside Cemetery in Caney, a town of about 2,100 people in southeast Kansas where Kittle was born and raised.
“We can put him to rest beside his mother,” said Kittle’s wife, Sandra Kozak, 79, of East Troy, Wisc. “She never believed he got on that plane. She thought he had amnesia and was living in Canada. She believed that till the day she died. There was no body, and she just couldn’t accept that.”
Kittle’s sister, Beatrice Crawford, 82, has often wondered about the death of her brother, who was two years older.
“I feel like his soul has been circling up around that mountain all these years waiting to come home,” she said.
Before the plane crash, Kittle had spent four weeks in Caney to see his newborn daughter, Linda, and to be with Sandra, who was 17 and still in school.
Crawford said news of the crash devastated Kittle’s parents, who didn’t celebrate Christmas for five years.
“They weren’t the same,” Crawford said. “Years after that, they were still hurting.”
Sandra Kozak said when the Army called her two years ago to tell her remnants of the plane had been located, she thought it was a scam. But the wreckage had been spotted on June 10, 2012, by an Army National Guard helicopter. Remains were shipped to labs in Hawaii. Family members submitted DNA samples for testing.
Kittle’s casket was flown with an Army honor guard to Tulsa on Thursday and escorted to Caney by Oklahoma Patriot Guard motorcycle riders. The casket will be escorted to the Sunnyside Cemetery by American Legion and Patriot Guard riders.