Don L. Weiss
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army
a contemporary news report:
"January 5, 1995: For fifty years, Don Weiss was mostly a mystery to his only daughter; a smiling pilot in an Army photograph, one in a long list of names of young American men who never came home from the war. On Wednesday, Sue Ann Reisdorph watched as Lieutenant Colonel Don L. Weiss and three of his crewmen came home.
"Reisdorph, who was six months old when her father's B-26 Bomber was shot down over France in World War II, held a folded flag at Army gunners saluted a single casket at Arlington National Cemetery. The casket held the remains of Weiss, co-pilot Axel "Pete" Slustrop, bombadier David Meserow and navigator George H. Hazlett, Jr.
"The best part of it for me was we were able to complete things, to give closure in such a dignified way," Reisdorph said after the simple burial service under cold, clear skies. She traveled from her home in Spring Hill, Florida, for the service, joining more than fourty relatives of the four fliers. Others came from Illinois, New York, Maine, Iowa, Masschusetts and Oregon. "It's another chaptr, the last chapter," Reisdorph said.
"The crewmen were members of the 386th Bombardment Group, based in England. Weiss, of Denison, Iowa, was 29 when the twin-engin plane was shot down on June 22, 1944, over Caen, France. Slustrop, of Portland, Oregon, and Meserow of Oak Park, Illinois, were 22. Hazlett, of Belmont, Massachusetts, was 24. The body of the fifth crewman was found shortly after the crash. The remains of three others on the plane were never located. Several years ago Reisdorph began looking for answers, eventually traveling to see her father's name inscribed on a memorial in Normandy, France, and contacting some of his wartime friends. In 1986, bone fragments and bits of ammunition turned up in a pasture near Caen. Army experts found bits of leather flight jackets, several shoes, an altimeter dial and a ripped name tag. In November, the Pentagon told family members that Weiss, Meserow, Hazlett and Slustrop were no longer among the 79,000 Americans missing from World War II.
"It was quite an amazing phone call," said Meserow's son, David Sauer. Like Reisdorph, Sauer was a few months old in 1944 and never met his father. Sauer's name was changed when his mother remarried. "It was important for me, and for my mother," said Sauer, of Mobila, Alabama. "She had only telegrams, not a visit from the Army to tell her for sure that he was dead. When someone is missing, you've never certain what happened."
Updated: 2 December 2001 Updated: 26 May 2006 Updated: 5 August 2006
Photo Courtesy of Roxsanne Wells-Layton, August 2006