PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Accounting Agency recently identified the remains of an airman from Provo who was killed during World War II.

U.S. Army Air Forces Cpl. Merle L. Pickup, 27, was accounted for on July 20, 2022, but his family had only just received their full briefing on his identification. 

The airman’s name will be recorded on the Walls of the Missing among nearly 36,300 other names at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, which is a 150 acres World War II Cemetery in the Philippines containing the graves of around 17,100 deceased American servicemen.

A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he has been accounted for, according to the press release by the DPAA. 

Pickup was assigned to the 308th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 373rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), stationed in Yangkai, China, in May 1944. He boarded a B-24J Liberator bomber set to complete a ferrying mission from China to Assam, India.

Unfortunately, the plane never made it to its destination, and the Army declared the plane missing. 

After the war, the American Graves Registration Service, the military unit responsible for investigating and recovering missing Americans who served in the Pacific War, tried and failed to reach the reported crash site in March and November 1947. The following month, the AGRS determined the site was too dangerous to reach, and the remains of the crew, including Pickup, were declared non-recoverable.

The DPAA press release stated that a third-party wreck hunter located and visited the crash site in 2008 and 2010. They reported seeing aircraft wreckage, military equipment, and possible human remains. In 2014, the Pacific Aviation Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, confirmed photographs of the wreckage taken at the site in 2010 were consistent with a B-24. 

Five years later, Abor Country, a North East India travel company, managed to reach the site and recover possible human remains, which were turned over to Southeastern Archaeological Research, a cultural resource management firm that was performing a DPAA recovery mission in India at the time. The remains were later turned over to the Indian government. 

Evidence and remains were finally repatriated to the U.S. last March after getting significantly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists from DPAA were able to use dental and anthropological analysis as well as material and circumstantial evidence to identify Pickup’s remains. 

Pickup’s funeral is set on Dec. 17, 2022, in Provo, Utah.

His profile can be viewed on DPAA’s website