Remains of WWII Navy Airman return home 73 years later

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. - The remains of a 22-year-old World War II Navy Airman were returned to St. Joseph, Mich. Thursday after being found in a watery grave off the coast of Palau.

Albert "Bud" Rybarczyk of St. Joseph was brought back to West Michigan after being missing in action for 73 years.

Rybarczyk's remains were flown into the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Thursday afternoon. His funeral is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. at St. Joseph's Resurrection Cemetery.

Rybarczyk went missing in 1944 during a bombing mission in the South Pacific. He was 22.

With no body for a funeral, loved ones were forced to bury the Navy Airman in their memories. His niece, Cindy Gray, said it's a bitter memory her family hardly spoke about until recently.

In 2014, organizations like 'Project Recover' and 'The BentProp Project' identified Rybarczyk's shipwrecked plane. And recently, DNA testing confirmed the remains indeed belong to Ruybarczyk.

Thursday, those remains were flown to West Michigan with the help of the U.S. Navy, now paying for a full military service.

Historians believe roughly 78,000 people are still missing from WWII, which makes this remarkable recovery even more special.