The remains of about a third of the 52 U.S. service members who died in a crash outside Anchorage in 1952 have been identified.

The U.S. Department of Defense on Wednesday said the remains of 17 people killed in the crash of the C-124A Globemaster will be returned to their families for burial with full military honours.

The plane crashed while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, with 41 passengers and 11 crew members onboard.

The Alaska National Guard discovered the wreckage in June 2012 on Colony Glacier, about 40 miles east of Anchorage.

The wreckage was spotted soon after the heavy transport plane vanished Nov. 22, 1952 but it became buried in snow.

The remaining 35 service members have not yet been recovered.