May 28, 2014 9:53:54 AM
PICAYUNE -- After 62 years, the family of Claiborne Thigpen will receive some closure on his death.
Thigpen's nephew, Cecil Craft, received a phone call a few months ago saying the U.S. Air Force had located the wreckage of Thigpen's plane, which had crashed in November of 1952. Craft said Thigpen had just finished basic training and was flying from Montana to Alaska to fight in the Korean War when the crash occurred.
According to the Nov. 15, 1952 issue of the Picayune Item, Thigpen graduated in September 1952 from radio technician school at Keesler Air Force Base and after spending his 30-day leave in Picayune with his family and wife, Rose Marie Slaydon Thigpen, he was heading to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska.
The plane, one of the largest in the U.S. air fleet at the time, was nearing the end of a flight from Washington state to Alaska and carried 52 military servicemen. A pilot found the plane days after it crashed, but snow buried it and searchers, battling severe weather, were never able to recover the plane, its passengers or its crew.
In June 2012, a National Guard helicopter crew spotted pieces of the historic plane on Colony Glacier, more than 12 miles from where it was last seen. That triggered a new effort to bring back and identify pieces of the plane -- and the people who died in the crash, in the hopes of bringing closure to their families.
Thigpen's wife received notice on Nov. 30, 1952 that Thigpen had been confirmed dead.
Even so, the family had held out hope of finding Thigpen alive because the plane had been spotted resting on a mountainside between the Gulf of Alaska and Elmendorf Air Force Base three days after it crashed, according to a Dec. 4, 1952 Picayune Item article.
Craft said he was 12-years-old when his uncle died and remembers how distraught his family was, especially his grandparents because Thigpen was "their baby boy."
Craft said a member of the United States military will present some of Thigpen's personal effects to his family on Friday and explain how they discovered the wreckage.
The presentation will be at Paul's Pastry in Picayune on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
Craft said Thigpen was a Picayune Memorial High School graduate and grew up in the Santa Rosa community.
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