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Remains of Pennsylvania airman lost during World War II identified after nearly 80 years

U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William B. Montgomery died in plane crash after bombing a German airfield in Saint-Cyr-l’École, France, on June 22, 1944.
Credit: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
1st Lt. William B. Montgomery

FORD CITY, Pa. — The remains of a western Pennsylvania man killed on a bombing raid in World War II have been accounted for after almost 80 years, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Monday.

U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William B. Montgomery, 24, of Ford City, Allegheny County, was a member of the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eighth Air Force at the time of his death in 1944, the DPAA said.

On June 22 of that year, he was piloting a B-24H Liberator that was struck by anti-aircraft after a bombing raid on a German airfield in Saint-Cyr-l’École, near Versailles, France, the DPAA said.

"Despite the damage to the B-24 Liberator, Montgomery's piloting skill allowed him to nurse the aircraft until it was over the English coast, whereupon he ordered his crew to bail out," the DPAA said. "Seven of the airmen parachuted successfully while the other three crew members, including Montgomery, were still on board. Two of the crew witnessed the aircraft crash into a farm in West Sussex, England."

Beginning in 1946, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), Army Quartermaster Corps, was the organization tasked with recovering missing American personnel in the European Theater, according to the DPAA. 

In November 1947, AGRC investigators searched the area of the crash site, but they did not discover the remains of any other crewmembers. 

Montgomery was declared non-recoverable May 10, 1950, the DPAA said.

A local aviation archaeology group attempted to excavate the crash site in 1974, to search for aircraft parts. A number of DPAA investigation and recovery efforts took place in 2017 and 2019, with a June 2021 recovery mission finding possible human remains and material evidence.

To identify Montgomery’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), analysis.

These methods allowed investigators to positively account for Montgomery's remains on Jan. 10, the DPAA said.

Montgomery’s name is recorded on the Wall of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Cambridge, United Kingdom, along with others still missing from WWII. 

A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for, the DPAA said.

Montgomery will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on a date yet to be determined.

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