Remains of Minnesota airman killed in 1952 plane crash in Alaska return home

It's a homecoming 67 years in the making: A Minnesota airman's remains returned home Thursday.

Airman 2nd Class Verne Budahn of Arlington, Minnesota was among the 52 passengers killed when a military plane crashed into the side of Alaska’s Mount Gannett in November 1952. The wreckage was buried in the snow and lost until it was discovered in 2012.

Since then, the Air Force has been working to return Budahn and his fellow airman back home. Thursday, a plane carrying Budahn's remains touched down in Minnesota.

“It was so amazing… We’re happy to bring him home,” said Joan Budahn. “One more step, and he’ll be home.”

Home is Arlington, Minnesota where his sister-in-law Joan Budahn still lives.

Joan says the family always wondered about Verne, what his life would have been like had his cargo plane not crashed on November 22, 1952. The crash site was discovered in 2012, but the Alaskan weather only allows for crews to gather remains in the month of June.

“Every June we’d wait and oh, maybe this is the year,” explains Joan. “Maybe this is the year. And now when it happened it’s wonderful, it’s emotional.”

Growing up, Verne’s nephew Bruce often thought of his uncle but the tales of Verne and his four brothers came mostly through photographs.

“When I would take out old pictures or I would see pictures of them playing in the snow then he’d open up a little bit but things about the service they didn’t usually talk about too much of that,” said Bruce Budahn.

But finally, Verne’s unfinished story has an ending. Not the ending anyone wants but at least the tribute that Verne Budahn deserves.

Budahn will be buried with full military honors on Saturday.