In support of her nonprofit organization, Honored Bound, Tampa resident Tonja Anderson-Dell recently went on a sky-high mission, flying across an Alaskan glacier in search of three military aircraft that went missing nearly 70 years ago.
Dell’s grandfather was on one of those missing planes.
On Nov. 22, 1952, three military transport planes disappeared in snowstorms near Anchorage, Alaska. Airman Isaac William Anderson Sr. was a 21-year-old serviceman on board one of those flights. When the Air Force returned and flew over the crash site, inclement weather kept them from finding any of the vanished planes, leaving behind the 52 people on Anderson’s flight.
Almost 50 years later, Anderson-Dell, Airman Anderson’s granddaughter, began a letter-writing campaign to recover her grandfather’s remains from the glacier. Little did she know then her efforts would become “Honored Bound,” helping dozens of other families search for their missing service members.
“The Air Force said contact the Navy; the Navy said the Marines, and it was full circle,” Dell said. “But I wouldn’t take, ‘No,’ for an answer.”
Dell was told her grandfather’s death was considered an “operational loss.” That means he was not killed in action, and there was no government agency assigned to recover the remains from his flight.
“You always hear, ‘We never leave our fallen behind,’” Dell explained. “But I felt that was not true about my grandfather. They left 52 servicemen out there on that glacier.”
Within the Department of Defense is the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). Their job is to recover service members from designated conflicts around the world. There is no agency that recovers “operational losses,” such as the remains from a plane crash transporting troops from one duty station to another.
Dell refused to let that stop her. She continued to write letters, send emails, and get in front of military groups, senators and other government officials. Her initial goal was to return her grandfather to his family, but soon her goal became returning all 52 military personnel aboard his C-124 Globemaster flight.
Dell’s efforts finally paid off, 60 years after the initial crash. On June 10, 2012, the C-124 Globemaster was found. Six years after that, Anderson’s remains were located, along with his dog tags. And in 2019 – more than 65 years after his plane vanished – Isaac Anderson Sr. finally came home.
As of Sept., 2021, only nine of the 52 servicemembers remained unfound. Dell is committed not only to returning all 52 home to their families but also to finding the servicemembers lost on the two other military transport flights that went down the same month in 1952.
Dell created the nonprofit organization, Honored Bound, to help other families look for servicemembers lost in operational or non-war situations. To find out more, go to to Honored Bound on Facebook or visit honoredbound.org.