ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The remains of a WWII soldier who was missing for decades will finally be laid to rest in his hometown of Zeeland.
Army Air Forces Cpl. LaVerne “Dirk” Van Dyke will be remembered and buried on Thursday at Zeeland Cemetery.
He was serving as a flight engineer on a B-25C aircraft on Jan. 18, 1943, when Van Dyke and his six crewmembers went missing. They were last seen departing an airport in New Guinea.
At the time, members of the Fifth Air Force conducted an extensive search but could not locate the plane nor the airmen. Van Dyke and his colleagues were presumed dead Dec. 20, 1945, according to the U.S. army. He was 38 years old when he went missing.
His remains were discovered in 1998 when Alfred Hagan, a U.S. citizen, found the wreckage complete with artifacts, ID tags, and remains associated with the flight Van Dyke was on. His remains were identified using laboratory analysis and circumstantial evidence.
Van Dyke was considered accounted for by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in 2018, according to the U.S. army.
Van Dyke’s great-nephew Steve Klomparen was notified about the identification of the remains. Klomparen, who lives in Maryland, traveled to West Michigan for the funeral.
“I appreciate the closure and I appreciate what the people in the Army and the Defense Department have to bring back our troops any way they can, no matter how long,” Klomparen said.
Services for Van Dyke will be performed by Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home from Holland just before the burial.
— News 8’s Jacqueline Francis contributed to this report.