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'70 YEARS WITHOUT HEALING': Michigan congressman pushes bill amendment, wants servicemens' remains recovered

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga saw the 13 ON YOUR SIDE story about the 1952 Alaskan plane crash in which 2 of the 19 unrecovered servicemen were from Muskegon. He acted.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In August 2020, 13 ON YOUR SIDE produced an 'Our Michigan Life' report that told the story of two local servicemen killed in a military plane crash in Alaska in 1952. It also explored the lack of anything being done by the U.S. Government, in the 70 years since, to recover the victim's remains.

Two of the 19 victims were from Muskegon: U.S. Air Force Corporal, Gail Daugherty and U.S. Army Private First Class, Raymond Housler.

In the 13 months since the report first aired, a local U.S. Congressman who saw the piece, chose to act on behalf of the victim's families, revealing an amendment to a bill that will soon be debated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

"I have a unique perspective because my dad was a disabled World War II veteran who was also in a military plane crash in Italy in 1944," said Rep. Bill Huizenga (R) Michigan's 2nd District. "It took two days to find him."

Huizenga's father survived the crash he was involved in, but 19 servicemen didn't have a similar fate while traveling aboard a routine, non-combat flight in Alaska on Nov. 7, 1952. The call letters of the flight were, Gamble Chalk 1. During bad weather, it veered off course and crashed into Mount Silverthrone.

Due to the location where the plane wreckage was at the time, the U.S. Government decided it would be too treacherous to put together search and recovery operation.

Nearly 69 years later, their remains lay somewhere on the surface of the Eldridge Glacier, which is where the plane's wreckage was discovered in 2016.

"My heart just goes out to those families, because I know how difficult it is to be able to get those bodies recovered," added Huizenga. "Having closure is an important process."

With no recovery action taking place, Huizenga and his team have submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is the annual defense bill that lets Congress set defense policy and determine defense funding.

The bill is scheduled to be debated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives sometime next week.

"The amendment will direct the Air Force to give us an official report so we can find out what their recovery plan is," said Huizenga. "We felt this was a way to kind of hold the Air Force's feet to the fire and be forced into dealing with this."

No later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Air Force must submit to Congress a report that includes:

1. A status report on recovery operations of the 1952 C-119 Flying Boxcar, call name 'Gamble Chalk 1.'

2. Detailed plans for the recovery operation, the timeline for such operation, a description of any past recovery operations and the rationale for any canceled or delayed operations.

3. Summary of all other Air Force operational losses that have not yet been recovered.

"We're quite optimistic about this amendment," Huizenga said. "We think it's relevant and would fit and, frankly, this isn't about partisanship or party; this is about these families around the country who've been waiting 70 years to heal."

Since the amendment will be voted on quickly, the window of opportunity to generate support on Capitol Hill is limited for Huizenga.

"We need folks to reach out to their representatives in the House and Senate and ask for their support," Huizenga said. 

Gail Daugherty's surviving brother, Charles, was ecstatic when 13 ON YOUR SIDE broke the news to him about Huizenga's amendment.

"This is amazing," Charles said. "We've been waiting years and years for this.

"[The government] has kept saying they're going to [search and recover], but they never do."

Last fall, Charles lost his older brother, Sonny Daugherty and sister Mary Judd.

"My sister Claudette [Bethke] and I are all that's left," Charles said. "I'd like for closure to come before something happens to us."

If the amendment doesn't pass, Huizenga says this won't be the end and his fight for the families will escalate.

"They deserve closure; they deserve to be able to bury their family members," added Huizenga. "Maybe gamble chalk is the the tip of the spear on this."

The 19 servicemen who died on 'Gamble Chalk 1' are among over 400 'non-combat, operational loss' United States servicemen and women whose remains have yet to be recovered. 

If you'd like to learn more about 'Gamble Chalk 1', the missing soldiers and their families, click HERE.

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