Pilot’s body found after 64 years

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Jun 19, 2008.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Pilot’s body found after 64 years

    By David Ferrara - Press-Register via The Associated Press
    Posted : Thursday Jun 19, 2008 12:15:37 EDT

    MOBILE, Ala. — A modest slate of granite no more than 3 feet wide and 2
    feet long rests a few steps from a live oak tree at Pine Crest Cemetery.
    It is 9,000 miles from the body that belongs beneath it.

    The marker reads: “Lt. W.L. McVay, Jr. USNR/Dec. 16, 1917/Feb. 22,
    1944/Killed in action in Saipan.” Next to it is a pair of headstones for
    his mother and father.

    Until recently, no one had a clue where McVay’s body lay. After the Navy
    squadron leader’s F6F Hellcat was shot down over the Pacific, the
    military categorized McVay as missing in action and dead.

    Woodie Lackland McVay left behind a wife and a daughter, along with his
    grieving parents.

    For decades, his family wondered.

    On the other side of the world, there is a white stone cross that looks
    like all the others.

    It stands as grave two, row 12, plot F at the Manila American Cemetery
    and Memorial in the Philippines. The inscription reads: “Here rest in
    honored glory/a comrade in arms/known but to God.”

    The only name associated with the serviceman there was “X-35.”

    Then, this month, that all began to change, when World War II researcher
    Ted Darcy received a report on the body in the Manila grave.

    Darcy had been trying to track down McVay’s remains for more than three
    years, poring over dozens of files. He found him when he received a
    report from the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va.

    The burial records matched. The height was barely a half-inch off
    McVay’s frame. The dental records were almost identical to those in
    McVay’s military file.

    Darcy was able to match 12 fillings and extractions in McVay’s mouth.
    “That’s rare,” he said.

    Last week, the report that connected McVay to the spot in Manila was
    sent to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base,
    Hawaii.

    JPAC is in the process of verifying that X-35 is indeed McVay, but Rob
    Richeson, a JPAC official, said he and others are “pretty positive” that
    it is.

    The exhumation process, he added, “should move reasonably quickly.” In
    government-speak, that’s several months, but for McVay’s family, they’re
    closer than they’ve ever been to bringing him home.

    McVay’s sister died in January. But in an interview with the
    Press-Register weeks before she passed away, Dorothy Carstens said she
    wanted her brother buried at Pine Crest, next to their parents.

    His widow, the former Annie Ruth Heidelburg, now Annie Ruth Owen of Bay
    Minette, remembers their short, but happy marriage, and the day she gave
    birth to their only child, Diane.

    Diane died in 1995, having never known her father.

    As hopes of identifying McVay have risen, Owen has found herself
    reflecting on their brief marriage, and the day he left for war, a day
    after their daughter was born. “I keep thinking about all that,” she said.

    McVay’s body was buried and dug up four times after his plane was shot
    down, according to Darcy.

    The Army first exhumed him from a makeshift Saipan grave on July 17,
    1944. An autopsy was performed, and he was identified by the name
    stitched in his underwear.

    But in the rush of war, the autopsy report and the location of McVay’s
    body were lost, Darcy said. His body was interred at a military cemetery
    in Saipan in October of that year as an unknown.

    In March 1948, the body was taken to a mausoleum in Saipan, where the
    military kept other unidentified war dead. In October that year, the
    body was placed on a ship to the Philippines, where X-35 was buried on
    March 30, 1950.

    McVay, meanwhile, had been declared dead in January 1946.

    McVay’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Huff of Birmingham, has spent the last
    three years learning about him. She spoke with family members and
    McVay’s friends, and read letters from fellow veterans. She said she
    believes he deserved a funeral with full military honors, a chance for
    the family to say goodbye and cry.

    She wants “an ending to the grief,” she said. “There’s got to be a
    beginning, and there’s got to be an ending. When you don’t have closure,
    you might cry, but there’s not an end to the crying.”
     
  2. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    Another brave warrior will at last be coming home.

    :salute:

    TO
     
  3. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    Another brave warrior will at last be coming home.

    :salute:

    TO
     
  4. Njaco

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    Welcome home. :salute:
     
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