A WWII aircraft was used recently in a service to nineteen men who went MIA during the war. The missing soldiers are believed dead, their cause of death suspected to be the destruction of two bombers, which were lost to the ocean while running drills. Two of the veterans in attendance for the commemoration ceremony were Jack McMullen and Frank Kittle, who had some experience with such aircraft during their war career. During their honorary flight, they dedicated flowers to the missing soldiers and recalled the times they nearly lost their own lives while they were still in service.
The B-24 bombers on which the missing soldiers had been boarded were lost completely, their wreckage never found at the site of their disappearance near Long Island. It was only in May of 2013 that any evidence was unearthed, entirely by accident, when a man from Long Island discovered what may have been a WWII-era landing gear.
Frank Kittle was working with the American Airpower Museum when the piece was brought in, and he knew exactly what it was. He was incredibly familiar with B-24 bombers, having worked on several over the course of WWII. Luckily, the serial number on the machinery was still intact, and this is precisely what Kittle used to help trace the piece back to the aircraft which had harbored the missing soldiers. Due to the slow pace at which news moved at the time, not to mention the tragic storming of Normandy which would occur just a couple of months following the bomber’s disappearance, there had been little call for the matter to be investigated until now, The New York Times reports.
Frank McMullen, who flew a B-24 during D-day, believes that these men were just a few of many who deserve such honored ceremonies. He consents that the loss of the two B-24s was devastating on a human level, but also notes that there were thousands of other such losses just in terms of training flights, not to mention those lost in battle. With nineteen men gone missing from the loss of just two bombers, then thousands of aircraft gone missing or destroyed must constitute innumerable missing soldiers.
Missing soldiers were, unfortunately, a commonality of WWII. Kittle was nearly among them himself when his own plane crashed, but was fortunate enough to have survived. After depositing the roses they carried into the ocean, Kittle and McMullen said a few words for more than just the nineteen men they were there to honor, but for all lost during the war—a war in which most missing soldiers were all-too-easily presumed dead.