Two American servicemen, Army Air Force Staff Sgts. Robert E. Howard, aged 21 from Moravia in Iowa and David R. Kittredge aged 22 from Oneida in Wisconsin, have been buried with full military honours in their respective home towns.
However, the unusual aspect of the services is that the men went missing on the 16th of April, 1945, when three aircraft were flying in a formation on a bombing raid to Wittenberg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany.
The pilots of the other two aircraft reported enemy fire had struck the fated B-26B aircraft, causing it to descend in a deep dive and impact with the ground below at considerable speed.
Like so many others, the families of those who perished believed that to be the end of the story, never being able to put their loved ones to rest, and never getting closure. But in 2007, a researcher heard eyewitness testimonies which claimed that the bodies of the two men had been buried nearby, under an apple tree. The witnesses also reported that an allied recovery team had exhumed the bodies around 1947.
As time continued to pass, is was in June of 2012 when a German national claimed to have found “human remains” in Muhlanger, which he believed to have been connected with this crash, reporting his find to both the local police and the American authorities.
In July of 2012, a team from the joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), a joint task force within the United States Department of Defence, began excavating the site, recovering human remains, personal effects and parts of the wrecked aircraft, taking custody of the items, as well as those previously recovered.
Using advanced Dna techniques, circumstantial evidence and forensic identification methods, the JPAC team were able to identify Staff Sgts. Howard and Kittredge, and begin the process of returning the men to their home towns, where they were buried, Howard on the 19th of July and Kittredge on the 13th of August, where they were finally laid to rest in peace.