A team of British scientists have uncovered the remains of a missing World War Two pilot – 80 years after his bomber was shot down over Italy.
Experts from Cranfield University said they’d given 2nd Lt Gilbert Haldeen Myers’s family “closure” after finding his body near Sciacca, Scilly.
The US airman, 27, was co-piloting a B-25 Mitchell bomber when it left from Tunisia, North Africa, to attack Axis-controlled Sciacca Aerodrome in July 1943.
But it later lost altitude and crashed in a field about one and a half miles from its intended target – after being hit by anti-aircraft fire.
There were no known survivors among the crew of six from the tragedy – or any record of passengers being taken prisoner.
And although local witnesses did say one person bailed out during the descent, Myers’ remains were never recovered, and he was declared missing in action.
A further investigation conducted in 1947 revealed no clues as to his whereabouts.
However, forensic experts at Cranfield University’s Recovery and Identification of Conflict Casualties team (CRICC) launched their own inquiry last year.
Earlier this year, they said they’d found Myers’s remains – with this later confirmed by the US Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA)
Dr David Errickson, a lecturer at the Cranfield Forensic Institute, said: “The recovery of 2nd Lt Myers’ remains not only facilitates a proper full military honours burial but also allows the family to receive any personal effects found.
“Most importantly, it brings closure for the families of those missing or killed in action.”
Dr Nicholas Márquez-Grant, a forensic anthropologist at the institute, added it had been a “privilege” to help find 2nd Lt Myer’s remains.
He said: “One small piece of evidence can be crucial in identifying an individual.
“In this case, playing a role in the quest to locate a missing serviceman was a profound privilege, bringing closure to Gilbert Haldeen Myers’ family.”
The Cranfield University team consisted of 20 people, each tasked with scouring the vicinity surrounding the impact zone.
This entailed the meticulous examination of tonnes of soil to recover fragments of human remains or personal effects which could identify crew members.
Dr Errickson said: “This deployment was our longest yet.
“During our operations, we systematically excavated the ground, meticulously examining every piece that could possibly be bone or other evidence.
“In challenging environments like the excavation site in Sicily, our team utilised wet screening, a process where excavated material is passed through water to separate and analyse human remains and artifacts.”
The human remains were later sent to the DPAA Laboratory, and on August 10 this year, the agency identified them as belonging to Myers.
They also recovered plane wreckage parts.
Identification at the DPAA involved DNA analysis, in addition to anthropological and circumstantial evidence found by the Cranfield team.
Myers’ name is on the Walls of the Missing at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy, along with others still unaccounted for from World War Two.
There are now plans to place a rosette next to his name to indicate he has been found.
Ahead of Remembrance Day this year, he was buried in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Friday (November 10).
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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