The fund raising campaign to bring the remains of Capt. John “Blackie” Porter and Sgt. Harold Neibler reached its goal earlier this week. Above, from left, adventurer Clayton Kuhles, forensic anthropologist Dr. Cheryl Johnston and archeologist John Schweikart listen as Ellen Vinson, of Pensacola, Florida presents her case to members of area veterans organizations and the public at a meeting earlier this year. (Journal-Tribune photo by Mac Cordell)
The mission to return the bodies of two Marysville soldiers is underway.
In July, Marysville officials announced a campaign to raise $70,000 to bring home the remains of Capt. John “Blackie” Porter and Sgt. Harold Neibler, also of Marysville.
Friday, Mayor J.R. Rausch announced the goal “has been met.”
He said Clayton Kuhles will leave next week to begin the recovery process. Kuhles is the adventurer hired to recover Porter’s body.
Rausch said that earlier this week the effort was still short on funds. He said that last weekend Kuhles began to “freak out,” creating a contingency plan in case the budget was not met. Kuhles, along with forensic anthropologist Dr. Cheryl Johnston, archeologist John Schweikart and Medic Matt Misicka are already donating their time and expertise to the mission.
Rausch said he learned Monday that several veteran’s related charities would each contribute $5,000.
“That really got us over the top,” Rausch said.
Kuhles will spend several weeks establishing a base camp. In December, Kuhles will be joined by the rest of his team — Johnston, Schweikart and Misicka, along with a cadaver dog and handler. There will also be a series of locals such as a guide, an interpreter and others to get the team and equipment from place to place.
Kuhles actually found the crash site in 2011. He was at another crash site in the region and learned of another crash site nearby. When he went, Kuhles discovered the wreckage of a B-25. He found a set of dog tags belonging to Sgt. Harry D. Tucker, a crewman on Porter’s plane.
Kuhles began researching the plane and its occupants.
Porter and Neibler were both graduated from Marysville High School, Porter in the class of 1934, Neibler in the class of 1936. Porter attended The Ohio State University and married his love, Ellen “Jane” Smith.
After attending college, Porter joined the air corps. While serving, Porter created his own search and rescue squadron, which became known as “Blackie’s Gang.” The squadron had remarkable success finding lost planes and their crews along an air route above India, Burma and China, known as “the Hump.”
On Dec. 10, 1943, Porter and his crew were flying a rescue mission over the eastern Himalayas. Their plane was shot down, crashing in northeast India. Only the co-pilot survived and only because he had a parachute and Porter pushed him from the plane.
Through the investigation, Kuhles connected with Ellen Vinson, of Pensacola, Florida.
Vinson is Ellen “Jane” Watson’s daughter. She knew of her mother’s first husband and decided to help fund a recovery effort. Vinson has contributed nearly $28,000 of the more than $73,000 raised.
Kuhles has said he is confident the crash is Blackie’s plane and confident that he can recover the remains as well as personal items that may be at the scene. Earlier this year Kuhles sent a local guide to the site and photos indicate it is undisturbed from when he found the site eight years ago.
Still, Rausch said it is a risk. He said most of the remains would likely be under the ground given the force and angle of the crash.
“It is still a possibility that we get there and there isn’t any remains,” Rausch said. “It has been 76 years.”
The actual recovery is expected to take three to four weeks.
From there the findings will be reviewed and studied by the Indian government before being sent to Hawaii.
“Once it’s in Hawaii, it could take a week, it could take a year,” Rausch said. “When it gets to Hawaii, you get in a line.”
The mayor said he would try to “lean on (U.S. Representative) Jim Jordan” for help getting the remains through the process.
Eventually, Porter will be buried in Marysville’s Oakdale Cemetery, along with his parents and brother, George.
Officials said they are actually over the goal and there could be more checks that have not been received yet. Rausch said any money remaining after the bills are paid will be used to host a special ceremony for Blackie’s return.
Those who donated to the effort will also be receiving a letter, thanking them for the donation and laying out the plan for what’s next. Rausch said donors will also receive a special gift.
“The patriotic sense in the community and coming together to bring them home has been remarkable,” said Alan Seymour, a city council member and member of the Union County Veterans Remembrance Committee.
The federal government does have a department tasked with identifying and recovering the remains of soldiers around the world. Officials from that organization, however, have said that due to the location and age of the crash, Porter and his men are not likely to be targeted by the government for recovery.
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