World War II Airman Finally Identified 79 Years After His Disappearance

War is never as romantic as the movies would make you believe, in many cases most who fight do not return home. In some cases, men killed in action are often reported as missing in action as their bodies cannot be found.

World War II was the catalyst for many such stories where families still have not received the blessing of bringing their loved ones home. However, a Pennsylvania family has recently been given such a gift as the remains of a U.S. airman who was killed in World War II when his bomber crashed on an English farm have been discovered. The airman was formally identified 79 years after the fatal crash.

According to the U.K.’s Bournemouth News & Picture Service (BNPS), Lieutenant William Montgomery’s B-24 Liberator was shot down near Arundel, West Sussex, on June 22, 1944. 

Military records show that Montgomery was only 24 years old when he died.

Reports claim that his plane was shot by anti-aircraft flak during an attack on a German airfield in northern France. BNPS reports that the plane was able to “limp” across the English Channel before it began losing height off the Sussex coast.

Seven of the 10-man crew successfully bailed out of the aircraft. However, 24-year-old Lt. Montgomery, co-pilot John Crowther, and engineer Sgt. John Holoka remained on board in an attempt to try to recover the aircraft.

“The stricken plane crashed into a ball of flames minutes later,” BNPS noted. 

Lt. Montgomery and Sgt. Holoka, both lost in the crash, were part of the 844 Squadron of the United States Air Force. They were stationed in RAF Halesworth, Suffolk. Their squadron was known for their participation in strategic bombing missions of Normandy before, during, and after D-Day.

 Lt. Demoyne Henderson, who survived the crash, later wrote in a statement, “Just a few seconds after bombs were away we were hit hard by flak. We managed to stay in the vicinity of the formation until the French coast was reached.”

He added, “I went to the flight deck and only one rudder and one elevator were in working order. We were in the rear of the ship until almost at the English coast when the order came to bail out.”

He continued, “Just after my chute opened, I heard the whine of the plane going down.” 

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