Lois O’Keefe visited the grave marker of her father for the first time since he passed away–seventy years ago. She never knew her father. He was shot and killed by German soldiers in Belgium during the Second World War. Through his death, she became a member of the growing “family” of surviving family members whose roots all trace back to that one fateful flight. O’Keefe was one of nearly two dozen members of a group who arrived in Europe last week to visit the graves of those family members who died in the crash.
O’Keefe was adopted as a baby and tells Stars and Stripes that it answers the questions of who she is and where her father is. It also opens another segment in her lie that connects her with the people who died with her father. Five other gentlemen died with her father, Calvin Anthes, when the B-17 Flying Fortress was gunned down by German Flak guns on April 13, 1944. Four men were able to parachute their way to safety and went on to survive the war.
Troy Hollar is the sole surviving member and he is now the only connection to the past. Many of the unofficial family members want to know more. He doesn’t like taking about the war. When his family asked him to talk about it, he modestly said that he didn’t do anything that millions of other men did. He did open up a bit though. His children and relatives of some of his former crew mates took part in a ceremony in Fouleng, Belgium. This ceremony honored the crewmembers who did not survive. A few witnesses of the crash shared their memories with Hollar.
Harold Ashman, Jr. is the son of one of the men who parachuted from the plane. Ashman was in awe as he walked the same ground his father parachuted to 70 years prior.
An emotional Ashman stated that it meant a lot to be there for the memorial.