Investigators Find Remains of US Airman Lost for 80 Years

Remains of Gilbert Myers recovered at 1943 crash site in Italy
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2023 3:50 PM CST
Airman Who Vowed to Leave 'Calling Card' for Hitler Is Buried
US Army Air Forces 2nd Lt Gilbert Haldeen Myers   (DPAA/Cranfield University)

It wouldn't have taken long for the family of Gilbert Haldeen Myers to conclude the US Army Air Forces pilot was dead. Though he was declared missing in action, there were no reports of survivors after his crew's B-25 Mitchell bomber, tasked with attacking the Sciacca Aerodrome in Sicily in the midst of World War II, was hit by anti-aircraft fire and went down in a field a mile and a half from the aerodrome in July 1943. But it would take some eight decades to retrieve the remains of the 27-year-old Pittsburgh resident, who was finally laid to rest this month. In October, a team of 20 investigators, including forensic archaeologists, announced they'd found what investigators searching one and four years after the crash had failed to find.

Experts with Cranfield University's Recovery and Identification of Conflict Casualties team, which has helped in the recovery of other people who disappeared amid conflict, including a US airman whose plane was shot down over Germany, teamed up with experts from the US Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) to scour the site near Sciacca, using water to aid in the sifting of sediments, per the BBC. "We systematically excavated the ground, meticulously examining every piece that could possibly be bone or other evidence," Dr. David Errickson of the Cranfield Forensic Institute (CFI) says in a university release, adding "this deployment was our longest yet."

"Sometimes excavations like these can yield nothing or remain ambiguous," says team member Dr. Nicholas Márquez-Grant, also of CFI. "In areas where plowing has occurred or the terrain has altered, discoveries are often confined to minuscule fragments." Yet "one small piece of evidence can be crucial in identifying an individual." The team eventually found plane parts as well as human remains, which were sent to the DPAA's laboratory in August. DNA analysis confirmed the remains were those of 2nd Lt. Myers, who was laid to rest in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Nov. 10. The recovery "also allows the family to receive any personal effects found," says Errickson, without revealing what items were recovered.

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Myers seems to have foretold his death in a letter penned before leaving the US, according to his obituary, published this month in the Tampa Bay Times. "Don't worry, Hitler will someday know I'm up there, even if I have to leave a calling card," he wrote. "I might not come back, but there's going to be hell raised till then." (More World War II stories.)

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