THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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A ceremony will take place on June 26, 2020 at the Normandy American Cemetery in France to bury the remains of US Air Force Pilot 2nd Lt William J McGowan, a year after they were formally identified.
On June 6, 1944, 2nd Lt McGowan, from Benson, Minnesota, was killed when the P-47 Thunderbolt he was piloting crashed near the city of Saint-Lô, France. Despite an investigation in 1947 by the American Graves Registration Command, the location of 2nd Lt McGowan's remains were unable to be located, which led to a declaration in December 1947 that his remains were non-recoverable. However, further investigations in 2010 and 2018 undertaken by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) led to an excavation of a crash site near the village of Moon-sur-Elle, France. An expert team from the St. Mary’s University Forensic Aviation Archaeological Field School, in Canada, was able to recover osseous material from the site, which was later identified as belonging to 2nd Lt McGowan through dental and anthropological analysis, as well as reviewing other material and circumstantial evidence.
Discussing the identification of his uncle, Paul Stouffer of Bozeman, Montana, explained (as quoted on the Daily Mail website) that "the confirmation by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) after almost 75 years that the remains found near Moon-sur-Elle were his is our greatest joy. It was something my grandparents, mother or aunt had never heard when they were alive – and all had visited Normandy after the war looking for some closure. My uncle's internment, scheduled for later this summer on the 100th anniversary of his birth at the Normandy American Cemetery, is in part a recognition of the wonderful people of Normandy. They have been a part of our family's life the last 75 years, and helped our grandparents and mothers bring some closure during a very difficult time".
2nd Lt McGowan will be buried at a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery on June 26. Details on the Cemetery can be found by going to www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery.
The Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency's mission is to account for Americans who went missing whilst serving their country - if you have any questions or would like to find out more about the DPAA's work, go to www.dpaa.mil.