U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. James Litherland was 25 years old when a B-17F flying fortress he was co-piloting was shot down in France, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Three airmen parachuted to safety but Litherland and six other crew members were still on board when the plane crashed near Le Translay, France, authorities said.
Six sets of remains were recovered near the crash site but only five were identified. In 2018, more material was recovered from the crash site and the unknown remains were exhumed from a cemetery in France.
In September 2019, an armed forces medical team began testing the remains including Litherland’s using DNA analysis. In March of this year, he was finally accounted for, the Accounting Agency said last week.
Litherland’s daughter, Suzanne Walker, called the efforts to identify his remains “amazing,” PennLive.com reported. Born on the day of the crash — “I imagine the grief of my mother” — Walker said she learned the recovery team used Google Maps to locate the crash site and did a hand dig to find the remains, which included one of his dog tags she now has.
“That was the biggest surprise,” she said. “I never expected it.”
Walker said she has little memorabilia about her father and hopes someone comes forward with pictures or other items. Through her research, she has learned he was an outdoorsman and with friends built a toboggan slide on the side of the mountain near their home.
She thinks about “what he may have been.” He would now be a great-grandfather.
Litherland will be buried in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, at a later date. Walker said she had the opportunity to have her father buried in France but “wanted him to be with his family.” His father and grandfather are buried in Wildwood Cemetery, where there is a headstone for him, she said.
Litherland’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupré, Belgium, along with others still missing from World War II. Military authorities said a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he has been accounted for.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.