Via Stars and Stripes:

They died together during a mission over Germany in 1944. For more than 70 years, the location of their remains was unknown. Wednesday afternoon, the five airmen were finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

“For over 150 years, our nation has honored her fallen warriors and patriots. These hallowed grounds are a lasting memorial to the men and the women who have honorably and faithfully served our country,” U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Matthew Whitehead said during the burial ceremony in section 60.

“First Lt. John Liekhus, Tech Sgt. John Brady, Tech Sgt. Allen Chandler, Staff Sgt. Bobby Younger, Staff Sgt. Robert Shoemaker have all earned a resting place in these hallowed grounds.”

The U.S. Army Air Forces airmen were members of the 323rd Bombardment Squadron, 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eighth Air Force. On Nov. 2, 1944, they were part of a nine-man crew that joined an armada of bombers on a mission to Merseburg, Germany and the Leuna Werke, a sprawling chemical factory that produced synthetic fuels.

Their B-17 was hit by flak, or ground, anti-aircraft fire, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. As the B-17 fell out of formation, German fighters attacked. Witnesses reported seeing the aircraft burst into flames and then descend rapidly. Three crewmembers survived the crash and were taken prisoner. One of the airmen killed was identified in May 1945; the other five crewmembers were declared missing in action.

In the raid, 38 bombers were lost and 481 were damaged, according to an April 2007 Air Force Magazine article. The USAAF estimated that as many as 500 Luftwaffe fighters attacked and almost 400 men did not return. Many were missing in action after bailing out of their aircraft.[…]

Relatives of each servicemember came to Arlington on Wednesday. During the flag presentations, the sun began to shine again.

“Our brothers served their country honorably,” Whitehead said. “They paid the ultimate price for the cause of freedom. Today we honor them with military honors. In life they honored the flag, so today, in death, the flag will honor them.”

Keep reading…

25 Shares