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United States Army Air Corps Crew
Killed In World War II
After 56 years, a dignified end
Bodies of air crew lost in World War II buried with honors

August 24, 2001

Army Air Corp Crew Laid To Rest At Arlington PHOTO

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY -- Fifty-six years after their plane disappeared in dense fog near Strasbourg, France, First Lieutenant Henry C. Lewis Jr. and his eight-man crew came home yesterday, laid to rest in a dignified ritual at this manicured graveyard where America honors its war heroes.

The hourlong funeral service and burial ended a mystery that had pained relatives of the ill-fated fliers, who died in a mid-air collision with another B-24J Liberator as their planes returned to England from a bombing raid over Germany on December 11, 1944.

The ceremony came about because of the painstaking detective work of a team of forensics experts, who identified the remains of the missing men decades after family members had given up hope of learning the fate of the crew.

After a Protestant service in the ornate Old Post Chapel at nearby Fort Myer, Virginia, a military band played "Faith of Our Fathers" as a flag-draped steel casket carrying commingled remains -- bone fragments too small for individual identification -- of the pilot, Lewis, and his comrades was loaded on a caisson drawn by six white horses.

Ten black limousines carrying relatives of the Army fliers trailed the procession under a canopy of hardwood trees for about a mile along the 612-acre cemetery's winding streets to the burial site.

In all, five caskets were buried here yesterday, four of them holding remains of individual crew members. Family members also will hold private burials in their hometowns for the four others who could be identified. Lewis, a native of Centreville, is to be buried on the Eastern Shore tomorrow.

For Nancy Lewis and Sandy Metz, who accompanied their mother, Katherine Thompson, and four other relatives here, yesterday's ceremony was a tribute to the father they never knew. Henry Lewis was a dim but constant presence in their lives even after their mother remarried in 1949, five years after Lewis and his crew were officially listed as missing in action.

"We were probably the only two children of a missing serviceman in our little town of Centreville," said Metz, who was 5 months old when her father was killed. "Mother remarried, we had a little brother, we were a family. I guess we always knew about him, but we never heard too much about our father. We didn't dwell on it."

Lewis, a graduate of Washington College in Chestertown, was 27 when he was killed. The family has three photographs of him. Two show him holding his infant daughter Nancy, who is now 58. The third photo is a portrait of him that has hung for years in the fire hall of the Centreville/Good Will Volunteer Fire Department, where he was an active member.

After so many years, Nancy Lewis, a Greenbelt resident and elementary school teacher, said she could scarcely believe the phone call her mother received Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1999.

The Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii had identified Lewis' remains.

"It was a revelation we had in no way expected," said Nancy Lewis. "It was almost surreal. I was a little skeptical at first. I asked a lot of questions."

The Army's identification team began work in 1997 after being notified that villagers from Zinsmiller, France, had discovered the wreckage of a U.S. plane in a dense forest, where it had crashed nose-first.

Also killed in the crash were: Second Lieuetnant Richard P. Klopfenstein of Garbill, Indiana; Second Lieutenant Sherman J. Andrews of Lubec, Maine; Sergeant Lewis M. Archer of Merced, California; Sergeant William L. Elliott of Renfroe, Alabama; Sergeant Henry T. Ahlin of McKinley, Minnesota; Sergeant William T. Carroll of Fort Worth, Texas; Sergeant John J. McGuire of Brooklyn, New York; and Sergeant Samuel D. Stanfield Jr. of Tallassee, Alabama.

Using methods including comparing DNA of the bone fragments with that of blood samples taken from family members, the forensics team was able to identify every crewman except Elliott, spokeswoman Shari Lawrence said.

"The Department of Defense takes this very seriously," Lawrence said. "There are identification teams out nearly every day of the year, all over the world. If we can get a blood sample from the maternal side of a family, we can get a match. This is the last thing we can do for our soldiers."

The hardest part of the experience, said Lewis and Metz, was having to wait almost two years after their father was identified to have his funeral.

It ook a long time for them to identify all the others," Lewis said. "I suppose we should be thankful for DNA testing. If they had been found 20 years ago, we'd never have had a positive identification. I also have his dog tags. They're mangled; they look like there was a terrible explosion. But his name is clearly visible."

Yesterday, after the caskets had been lowered into the ground, an honor guard, rifle squad and bugler waited as white-gloved pall bearers folded American flags into tri-cornered bundles and presented them to family members. Each family received a card of condolence from an "Arlington lady," a volunteer who attends funerals at the cemetery across the Potomac River from the nation's capital.

With the spire of the Washington Monument visible above the treeline, three sharp rifle volleys saluted Lewis and his crewmen. The bugler began playing taps as the echo of the final shots faded.

Afterward, Marie Fietz, the 87-year-old sister of Lewis M. Archer who traveled from Bakersfield, Calif., said the funeral was one last thing she could do for her brother, one of three in the family who fought in World War II.

"It's almost like a miracle," Fietz said. "I'm the only survivor now in my family, and I got him buried with full military honors. It's a closure. It's all over now."

Aircrew December 1944 Gravesite PHOTO
Photograph By M. R. Patterson, October 2002


 Posted: 8 September 2001Updated: 2 December 2001 Updated: 21 October 2002 Updated: 21 March 2003 Updated: 9 July 2003
Updated: 25 August 2006
Air Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal
 
 

Henry C. Lewis, Jr.
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces
O-407017
701st Bomber Squadron, 445th Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: Maryland
Died: December 11, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at CambridgeAmerican Cemetery, Cambridge, England
Awards: Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
Maryland State Flag
Richard Klopfenstein
Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces
O-721119
701st Bomber Squadron, 445th Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: Indiana
Died: December 11, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England
 Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart
Indiana State Flag
Sherman J.  Andrews
Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces
O-712473
701st Bomber Squadron, 445th Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: Maine
Died: December 11, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England
Awards: Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
Maine State Flag
Lewis M. Archer
Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
39697413
701st Bomber Squadron, 445th Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: California
Died: December 11, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England
Awards: Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart
California State Flag
William L. Elliott
Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
14176674
701st Bomber Squadron, 445th Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: Alabama
Died: December 11, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England
Awards: Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
Alabama State Flag
Henry T. Ahlin
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
37566950
701st Bomber Squadron, 445th  Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: Minnesota
Died: December 11, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England
Awards: Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
Minnesota State Flag
William T. Carroll, Jr.
Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
18242379
701st Bomber Squadron, 445th Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: Texas
Died: December 11, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England
Awards: Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart
Texas State Flag
John J. Mc Guire
Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
32810991
701st Bomber Squadron, 445th Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: New York
Died: December 11, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England
Awards: Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluste, Purple Heart
New York State Flag
Samuel D. J.  Stanfield
Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
4192749
701st Bomber Squadron, 445th Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: Alabama
Died: December 11, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart
Alabama State Flag

US Army Aircrew: 11 December 1944 Gravesite PHOTO
Photo Courtesy of Roxsanne Wells-Layton, August 2006