Biden suggests cannibals may have eaten war hero uncle in WWII – in apparent swipe at Trump

US

Joe Biden has suggested his uncle may have been eaten by cannibals after his plane was shot down during the Second World War – as he said Donald Trump was unworthy of serving as commander in chief again.

The US president visited a war memorial near his Pennsylvania hometown to honour his late uncle Ambrose J Finnegan’s service in the conflict.

“He flew single-engine planes, reconnaissance flights over New Guinea. He had volunteered because someone couldn’t make it. He got shot down in an area where there were a lot of cannibals in New Guinea at the time,” Mr Biden told reporters afterwards.

“They never recovered his body.”

But there appears to be no record of his uncle’s death being the result of hostile action or any indication that cannibals played any role in the inability to recover his remains, according to the US defence department.

Military records show he was killed when the reconnaissance plane he was in crashed in the Pacific Ocean off the northern coast of New Guinea in May 1944 after engine failure.

“We have a tradition in my family my grandfather started,” Mr Biden said. “When you visit a gravesite of a family member – it’s going to sound strange to you – but you say three Hail Marys. And that’s what I was doing at the site.”

He attempted to draw a contrast between his family’s record of sacrifice to remarks allegedly made by Mr Trump that fallen service members were “suckers” and “losers”.

Former aides to Mr Trump have said he made the comments when he did not want to visit a cemetery for American war dead in France during his first term as president in 2018.

Mr Trump has denied making those remarks.

The president said Mr Trump – the presumptive Republican candidate to take on Mr Biden in November’s presidential election – “doesn’t deserve to have been the commander in chief for my son, my uncle.”

Mr Biden’s elder son, Beau, died in 2015 of brain cancer. The president has linked his son’s death to his year-long deployment in Iraq, where the military used burn pits to dispose of waste.

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White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement to Sky’s US partner network NBC News that the president was “proud of his uncle’s service in uniform, who lost his life when the military aircraft he was on crashed in the Pacific after taking off near New Guinea.”

He added: “The president highlighted his uncle’s story as he made the case for honouring our ‘sacred commitment… to equip those we send to war and take care of them and their families when they come home’, and as he reiterated that the last thing American veterans are is ‘suckers’ or ‘losers’.”

Mr Bates did not comment on the cannibalism claim.

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