The Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial plans a program to honor fallen veterans, with a nod to U.S. Navy aviation, on Memorial Day.
In particular, those in attendance will honor the memory of Navy Aviation Radioman 3rd class Walter Mintus at an 11 a.m. ceremony on Monday, May 29. The event is open to the public. Shuttle service will run from nearby parking lots.
Mintus, a Pennsylvania native, lost his life in the Pacific Theater during World War II. His story, however, has a modern twist. He was missing in action for 74 years, until 2018, when his remains were identified thanks to the efforts of an organization called Project Recover.
Dr. Pat Scannon, founder of Project Recover, will make remarks at the Memorial Day gathering. The morning’s keynote speaker will be the Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces and Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
“We honor all the fallen” during the ceremony, said Neil O’Connell, executive director of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association. “Our mission is to honor and preserve the legacy of our veterans and tell their stories.”
Some 6,600 veterans, living and deceased, are honored on the memorial’s black granite walls. O’Connell said that after consulting with Project Recover and the family of Walter Mintus, the memorial decided on a public ceremony honoring Mintus’ life.
Project Recover worked with several organizations, including the U.S. Navy and UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, to find the debris field from Mintus’ downed aircraft in Malkal Harbor in the Republic of Palau in 2016. Mintus had been one of three men flying in a TBM Avenger.
To identify Mintus’ remains, scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence. Mintus’ remains were returned to his hometown of Portage, Pennsylvania in 2018 and buried there.
Parking shuttles for the ceremony will depart from lots at Mount Soledad Presbyterian Church and the San Diego French-American School, both near the intersection of Soledad Mountain Road and La Jolla Scenic Drive South.