updated 8/4/2009 4:44:01 PM ET 2009-08-04T20:44:01

The remains of a U.S. airman killed in Hungary near the end of World War II are on their way back to the United States, officials said Tuesday.

The remains of Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Steinford were discovered five years ago in a mass grave in the town of Zirc in western Hungary, where he had been buried with 26 Soviet soldiers.

Steinford, a native of Iowa, was part of a 10-man crew of a B-17 bomber which was shot down near Zirc on March 14, 1945, while returning to its base in Italy from a mission over Hungary. Col. Evan Roelofs, the Air Attache at the U.S. Embassy, said the crew, except for Steinford, parachuted safely from the plane but that Steinford was listed as missing in action.

Steinford's remains were identified using dental records and other anthropological evidence by members of the U.S. military's Hawaii-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Museum of Natural Sciences in Budapest.

The command deals with identifying and recovering American soldiers killed in conflicts around the world.

Lt. Gen. Jozsef Hollo, director of Hungary's Military History Museum, said Steinford's ID tags had been found recently, when the contents of the grave in downtown Zirc were being relocated to another cemetery.

"In a few days, the war will finally end for the sergeant, because his mortal remains will be laid to rest in his homeland," Hollo said at ceremony outside the U.S. Embassy, where a small coffin with Steinford's remains was handed over by the Hungarian Defense Ministry to the U.S. military.

The remains will be taken to Hawaii for final positive identification.

Roelofs described Steinford as "one U.S. Army Air Corps soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for the liberation of Europe during World War II."

"It was not blind courage ... It was a sense of duty, honor and country" that led Steinford and thousands of other soldiers to fight for those oppressed under Nazi rule, Roelofs said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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