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Enumclaw service honors 32 Marines killed in 1946 Rainier crash

The annual memorial service honoring military men who died on Mount Rainier more than 66 years ago will take place Saturday.

The event, hosted by Pierce County Detachment 504 of the Marine Corps League, is scheduled to begin at noon at Veterans Memorial Park.

Thirty-two Marines died Dec. 10, 1946, when their military airplane slammed into the face of Mount Rainier while on the final stretch of a journey from San Diego to Seattle. They were part of a group of six military transport planes flying at 9,000 feet altitude. Due to inclement weather, four pilots abandoned their plans and landed instead at Portland, Ore., while another made it safely to Seattle; the final plane, its cargo and crew, remains entombed on the mountain.

Hampered by continued poor weather, search efforts at the time of the crash proved fruitless and, after two weeks, the hunt was suspended. It was seven months before the wreckage of the Curtis Commando was spotted on South Tahoma Glacier and another four weeks before the bodies of the deceased were located high on the glacier. Hazardous conditions forced authorities to abandon plans to remove the bodies.

Eventually, a stone memorial was placed within sight of the glacier. A duplicate of that memorial was created and placed at Veterans Memorial Park.

Saturday’s ceremony will include a welcome by Commandant George Hilbish of the Pierce County Detachment of the Marine Corps League. An invocation will be offered by Chaplain Charles Pringle; the Marine Security Force out of the naval station in Bangor, Wash., will post the national colors; the Scottish American Military Society will  post the service colors; and the keynote speaker will be Lt. Col. Jay Rodne, a member of the Marine Corps Reserves and a member of the Washington State Legislature.

Saturday’s program also will feature a reading of the poem “32 Marines” by Jim Ross, a Mount Rainier National Park ranger, and a rifle salute by the Marine Security Detachment from Bangor.

The most solemn part of each year’s ceremony comes with the tolling of a bell, the reading of the names of the 32 lost Marines and the laying of roses in front of the ceremonial marker. Honored with the tolling of the bell will be T.J. Cormier of the Carbon Glacier Young Marines.

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