Judson Baskett: Home at Last

Judson Baskett was 25 years old when he went missing during a routine cargo flight to Malaysia on November 27, 1945. On August 12, 2016, after 70 years, his remains were returned home to Houston and buried at Historic Hollywood Cemetery. We thought it fitting to honor Judson in our November issue, the month he went missing, the month he was declared deceased, the month we celebrate veterans of war, and the month we give thanks–in this case, thanks to a man and his family for making the ultimate sacrifice for country.

By Sara G. Stephens

On November 27, 1945, Army Air Forces Flight Officer Judson Boyce Baskett, boarded a C-47 in Singapore, accompanied by co-pilot 1st Lt. William Myers and radioman Pfc. Donald Jones. The crew was making a routine cargo flight to Malaysia.

An hour into the flight, the aircraft reported its position over Malacca, but failed to land as scheduled in Butterworth. An air search was conducted in December, but was unsuccessful. In March of 1946, reports of an object appearing to be a crashed aircraft around 45 miles south of Butterworth resulted in several attempts to reach the crash site by foot. Heavy jungle growth and the presence of wild animals frustrated these search efforts. On November 28, 1946, the crew of the cargo mission was declared deceased.

Twenty years later, the Malaysian Ministry of Defense contacted the United States Air Attache with reports of the discovery of a WWII aircraft in the jungle. Although material evidence was identified during the joint investigation, no remains or personal effects were found.

In 2010 a subsequent visit to the site resulted in the discovery of aircraft wreckage that unmistakably connected the area to the Baskett’s aircraft. Two years later, personal effects were collected from the crash site by a Malaysian Historical group. But it wasn’t until 2015 that Judson’s remains were recovered.

In July 2016, 71 years after Judson’s death, the fallen soldier embarked on his final flight–the flight that would bring him home to Houston. A family member contacted the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR), an organization of motorcycle riders from around the country who attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes in a demonstration of solidarity and respect. George Pelkey co-captained this particular ride.

“We know there are thousands of MIA’s from wars, and the family always wants to know where their loved one is,” Pelkey said. “At the Patriot Guard Riders, Our mission is to honor our military and our veterans. We say, “Standing for those who stood for us.”

On August 10 the PGR rode escort from Houston’s Bush Airport with Judson’s family members and the funeral car to American Heritage Funeral home. On August 12, the PGR traveled to Historic Hollywood Cemetery in Houston, where the service proceeded with full military honors.

“The casket was transferred from the funeral car to a caisson pulled by a horse,” Pelkey recalled. “With military honor guard and PGR members carrying flags, the bagpiper playing, they traveled to the final resting place for the service. There were about 32 PGR members in attendance.”

Judson’s grave, though empty for decades, has long carried a bronze burial plaque placed by the Basket family to honor the fallen soldier. Today, the man who gave his life for his country over 70 years ago, so far from family and everything he knew and loved, finally rests next to his mother and father. Home at last.

Rest in peace, Judson. Houston thanks you.

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