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WWII pilot accounted for 79 years later

U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. James Litherland, who was killed in action in 1944 set to return home to Williamsport

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — An Army Air Force pilot from South Williamsport, killed during World War II, has been accounted for according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

The remains of 2nd Lt. James Litherland III, 25, of South Williamsport, will be returned home for a burial at a future date, the agency said.

On February 28, 1944, Litherland was co-piloting an aircraft that was struck by anti-aircraft fire after a bombing raid on a German V-2 rocket site in Bois-Coquerel, France. According to a release by the DPAA, three men parachuted successfully before the plane crashed, while the other seven crew members, including Litherland, were still on board.

Litherland's daughter was born the same day of the crash, back home in Williamsport.

In 1945, investigators reviewed German documents detailing American planes and their crews during the war. Those documents revealed 6 sets of remains were recovered near the crash site in Le Translay and were buried in the English World War I Memorial Cemetery on March 2, 1944.  

 In June 1945, American Graves Registration team disinterred the 6 sets of remains and interred them in the United States Military Cemetery at St. Andre, France. Five of the six sets of remains were identified, the one unknown set of remains was designated as X-452 St. Andre.

In March 1947 AGRC investigators identified X-452 as being associated with Litherland but were unable to identify him and X-452 was transferred to Suresnes American Cemetery, France.  Litherland was declared non-recoverable Dec. 26, 1950.  

In September 2017, a DPAA Investigation Team traveled to Le Translay to locate Litherland’s crash site; in August 2018, a DPAA Recovery Team recovered material evidence and remains from the site, which the DPAA laboratory accessioned for analysis.

 In October 2019, the Department of Defense and the American Battle Monuments Commission exhumed the unknown remains designated X-452 St. Andre, believed to be associated with Litherland, from Suresnes American Cemetery.

To identify Litherland’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis.

Litherland’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Ardennes American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Neupré, Belgium, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for. 

Litherland will be buried at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on a date yet to be determined.

The DPAA press release comes after the remains of another World War II soldier, Army Pvt. Horace H. Middleton, were returned in April.

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