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How Alaska Airlines Jumped Into Action To Repatriate A WWII Pilot’s Remains

During World War II, Eugene Shauvin’s United States Army transport aircraft was shot down over Belgium. For more than seven decades, no one knew of his whereabouts, but that changed in the spring of last year. Last month, Alaska Airlines brought Eugene Shauvin back home.

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Almost 80 years missing

Eugene Shauvin was a United States Army Air Corps 2nd Lieutenant in WWII. During a flight over Belgium on route to the Netherlans, his C-47 Skytrain was shot down and Shauvin’s body was never recovered. For more than seventy years, Shauvin’s daughter searched for him, and in the spring of last year, she received news that her father’s remains had been located and recovered. A plan was put in place to return Eugene’s remains to Spokane, but there was one small problem. The airline contracted by the military to fly the remains to the United States did not fly all the way to Spokane.

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Almost 80 years after being shot down in Europe, Eugene Shauvin’s remains were located. Photo: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA)

This is where Alaska Airlines stepped into the picture. Kate, government affairs director for Alaska Airlines in Washington D.C. received a phone call from the office of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State. Rodgers’ staff wanted to know if Alaska had any ideas as to how the remains could be returned to Spokane. Kate then got in touch with Alaska’s managing director of cargo, Adam, who quickly sprung into action. Adam and his team began coordinating directly with the military.

In less than 24 hours, the Alaska and Horizon Air teams were able to put an entire plan together to get Eugene Shauvin home. Alaska took charge of transport of the remains in Omaha, Nebraska and flew them to Seattle. In Seattle, the remains were transferred to Alaska’s Boeing 737 Honoring Those Who Serve aircraft for the last leg to Spokane. In Spokane, Lawrence, Horizon’s station operations manager, arranged a proper arrival for Shauvin. Lawrence coordinated with the staff at Spokane International Airport and with local military contacts.

Upon arrival in Spokane, Horizon employees received the aircraft and joined a somber planeside ceremony. From the airport, transport was arranged, and a graveside ceremony took place on July 23. An honor guard was present to perform Taps and a 21-gun salute, a hero’s welcome home.

Transport of fallen U.S. soldiers

For years, transportation of deceased members of the United States military has been carried out by commercial airlines. This is because there are laws that govern noncompetition between the military and private sector. The United States military contracts commercial airlines to deliver remains of fallen soldiers. A few weeks ago, I was flying out of Denver International Airport and noticed that a few airport fire trucks were waiting near a gate. Shortly after, a United Airlines flight arrived from Munich and was transporting the remains of a soldier.

Typically, the military coordinates with airlines to greet the aircraft transporting the body, on arrival. Aircraft are welcomed with a water cannon salute at the gate, something that usually occurs on inaugural flights for new aircraft, inaugural routes, or retirement of a crew member. Often times, family members are present along with other members of the military, including an honor guard, a group dedicated by each military branch to honoring the fallen. That day in Denver, members of the military were taken to the cargo hold of the aircraft by United’s ground staff in order to unload the casket. It was a somber moment, and one that I will likely never forget.


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