The U.S. Air Force officially concluded on Tuesday that all eight U.S. Airmen who went down with a CV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft off the coast of Japan on Nov. 29 are deceased.
Various U.S. military units had conducted exhaustive search and rescue efforts off the coast of Yakushima Island for nearly a week after the aircraft went down and have thus far located the remains of six of the eight Airmen. On Tuesday, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) concluded that the final two missing Airmen were most likely also deceased. The command announced their search and rescue efforts had officially transitioned into a recovery operation to locate and retrieve the remains of the remaining Airmen.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher, 24, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, had been the first Airman located after the Nov. 29 Osprey crash. Staff Sgt. Galliher had entered active duty in August of 2017 and had been a direct support operator assigned to the 43rd Intelligence Squadron, Detachment 1, Operating Location – Alpha, 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing based out of Yokota Air Base, Japan. His unit had been assigned in support of the 353rd Special Operations Wing. As a direct support operator, Staff Sgt. Galliher was trained as an airborne linguist specializing in Mandarin Chinese.
Staff Sgt. Galliher’s remains were found on the same day as the crash. On Monday, Dec. 4, AFSOC announced search and rescue teams had located the crashed Osprey’s main fuselage, along with the remains of five additional flight crew members. Two of those flight crew members found with the fuselage have since been recovered and efforts continue to recover the remains of the other three Airmen found with the fuselage.
In their Tuesday update, AFSOC identified the seven Airmen as:
- Maj. Jeffrey T. Hoernemann, 32, of Andover, Minnesota, a CV-22 instructor pilot who was assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan.
- Maj. Eric V. Spendlove, 36, of St. George, Utah, a residency-trained flight surgeon and medical operations flight commander assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan.
- Maj. Luke A. Unrath, 34, of Riverside, California, a CV-22 pilot and flight commander assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base.
- Capt. Terrell K. Brayman, 32, of Pittsford, New York, a CV-22 pilot and flight commander assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base.
- Tech. Sgt. Zachary E. Lavoy, 33, of Oviedo, Florida, a medical operations flight chief assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Kadena Air Base.
- Staff Sgt. Jake M. Turnage, 25, of Kennesaw, Georgia, a flight engineer assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base.
- Senior Airman Brian K. Johnson, 32, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, a flight engineer assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base.
AFSOC did not specify which of the seven Airmens’ bodies have been located and recovered, and which two Airmen are still missing.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and peers of all who are impacted by this mishap and loss of life,” said Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command. “In times like these, where service to our nation is not just a personal commitment but also a legacy woven into the fabric of our families, the depth of sorrow is immeasurable. The honorable service of these eight Airmen to this great Nation will never be forgotten, as they are now among the giants who shape our history.”
AFSOC said the flight crew had been conducting a routine training operation when the aircraft went down on Nov. 29.
Elements of the Pacific Air Force, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, U.S. Marine Corps Forces-Pacific, and the U.S. Army’s 1st Special Forces Group have assisted at various points with the search and rescue efforts. Japanese Self Defense Forces, members of Japan’s Coast Guard, local law enforcement, and civilian volunteers also contributed to the search efforts.
“On behalf of all of the joint U.S. teammates actively involved in the search, we want to extend our sincere gratitude to the Government of Japan’s Self-Defense Force, Coast Guard, law enforcement, mariners, and local Yakushima civilian volunteers for their tireless assistance in the search and rescue operations for our Airmen. Their selfless dedication in our time of need demonstrates the ironclad bond between our nations,” Rear Adm. Jeromy Williams, commander of the Special Operations Command—Pacific, said of the ongoing effort. “We are resolved to locating our aircrew and bringing them home to their families.”
U.S. military personnel have been wounded in other Osprey crashes in recent years.
Three U.S. Marines were killed and 20 more were injured when their MV-22 Osprey went down in Australia in August.
Five U.S. Marines were killed in a crash in California in June, 2022.
Four U.S. Marines also died in a March 2022 MV-22 crash in Norway.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said crash investigators are continuing to gather information on this latest incident and announced the U.S. military would conduct a “rigorous and thorough investigation.”
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of eight American troops in a tragic aircraft crash off the coast of Japan,” Mr. Austin said. “The entire Department of Defense mourns alongside the families and the loved ones of those who lost their lives today in the service of their country. My heart also goes out to those who were serving alongside these brave men and women in Japan.”