Plane Crash from Over 70 Years Ago Remembered

The plane crash which killed an American pilot in 1943 was witnessed by the two young offspring of the Simonelli family in Italy. Caroline and Guy Simonelli stood by helplessly as they watched the flaming wreckage fall from above, crashing near their farm. A German soldier was nearby at the time and pulled a young man out of the plane crash, but their mother pleaded with him to bury the body respectfully.

The young pilot was a man of twenty-two years of age from Rock Hill by the name of Neill Walker. Shortly after the Second World War ended, his grave was found and the identity of his body was determined. There was still some mystery regarding the plane crash, however, as his family knew nothing of how he was buried and who was responsible for this show of respect toward their fallen loved one. It was something about which they would wonder for quite some time afterward.

Much later, George Feindel III, Walker’s cousin, spent almost twenty years researching what happened to the body. He was aided by an additional cousin, Bobby Walker, who used a genealogy service to track down the Simonelli family and learn more about the plane crash. Discovering that they had not only buried the body, but witnessed the wreck as well, it was not long before Neill Walker’s surviving family invited the Simonelli siblings to Rock Hill for a visit, The Slate reports.

The two families met in good spirits, ecstatic to meet those with whom they shared a touching bit of history. Guy and Caroline Simonelli recalled that the primary reason their mother had wanted to bury the young man from the plane crash was that he was someone’s son, someone’s family. Now, they were meeting the very family for whom they had been acting in service. A memorial was hosted with both families in attendance, and they sat side-by-side on the very front row.

The Simonelli siblings were able, so many years after the plane crash, to see young Neill Walker’s final resting place after his remains had been relocated to Rock Hill. Even though Walker was shot from the skies over seventy years ago, his memory lives on across the generations of two different families, an outcome he probably never would have expected. The two families connected by the plane crash are a symbol not only of the growing peace between former enemy nations, but of the peace which has always existed between them on a less political and more human level.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE