KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One East Tennessee family spent decades thinking, hoping, and praying a missing airman survived a military plane crash in a remote Alaskan mountain range.

“Mother even went to Alaska in her last year or two of life.  We’d always thought that he was still alive,” recalled Ms. Rachel Hollbrook clutching a tissue and wiping away tears.

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Her younger brother “Eddie” was just 19 years old when the family learned the military suspected his transport plane slammed into a mountain.  That was 1952.

Six decades later on June 9, 2012, members of the military reconnected with Eddie’s family and told them a helicopter crew had rediscovered the wreckage of the C-124 Globemaster II and a recovery team was working to find and identify the remains of the 52 troops on board.

Airplane wreckage recovery crew
The crew that rediscovered the wreckage.
Jan Gibson Family

“I knew then that he wasn’t just missing that he was really dead.  Like I said, it just brought everything back fresh.  It was just like the day it all started,” said Ms. Hollbrook.  

She says her mother went to her grave thinking William Edmond Mize, Jr. might still be alive.  

Next month, at age 86, Ms. Hollbrook plans to make the long trip to Arlington National Cemetery from East Tennessee to attend the burial of the 19-year-old brother she remembers as a fun-loving jokester who loved to sing and laugh.

“Ohhh man, I’ve missed him,” said Ms. Hollbrook.