By DALE LEZON
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
On July 7, 1944, nine men took off from an air base in England, one of the crews in a flight of bombers sent to obliterate an aircraft factory in Germany.
Like thousands of other World War II aviators, those nine men never returned. Unlike most of the nation's fallen heroes, their remains were presumed lost.
The bombardier on that doomed B-24J Liberator was 1st Lt. Raymond Pascual of Houston, who had left a pregnant wife back in the states. His son, Raymond Pascual Jr., grew up knowing only that his father died in a fiery plane crash during World War II.
There had been no funeral, and there was no grave site. Now, more than 63 years later, there will be.
A few weeks ago, the military told him that human bone fragments found at a crash site in Germany were those of his father.
"I figured everything had burned up," Pascual said. "I had no idea they'd find some remains. It's great."
The remains of his father were among those of nine men identified by the military who went down in a Liberator, said Larry Greer, spokesman for the Pentagon's POW/MIA Office.
Their families have been notified, Greer said, and the remains will be released to them when funeral arrangements are made. Two have already been buried in their home states. The others can be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, he added.
"We're fulfilling a promise that the country made," Greer said, "to bring home these service members who went to war."
Pascual, 62, of Vidor, said he was born in Houston a few months after his father was killed and he has only sketchy details of the man he never knew.
His mother told him a little and he has a few military photos of his father, as well as a folder of records related to his military service and the effort to identify his remains.
"I wish I had known him," he said. "He was a good man, my mom told me."
Stationed at Ellington
Pascual said his father was born Nov. 16, 1915, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He enlisted in the Army there, a month after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
He was trained as a bombardier and received his commission in 1943 at Midland. Later, he was stationed in Langley, Va., and flew anti-submarine patrols. Then he was stationed at Ellington Field.
In April 1944, he was shipped to Europe. On July 7 that year, he was a bombardier on the Liberator, which took off from North Pickenham, England, on a mission to bomb an enemy aircraft factory near Bernburg, Germany.
Other fliers on the mission said they were swarmed by German fighters and rocked by flak from anti-aircraft artillery, and. contact was lost with Pascual's B-24.
Captured German records showed that the plane crashed near Westeregeln, about 20 miles northwest of the target in what would become the Soviet sector of a post-war-divided Germany.
The location of the crash site remained a mystery until a group of German residents searching for war relics stumbled upon it in 2002. They found human remains and personal items, including military identification tags, which were turned over to U.S. officials.
In 2003, Greer said, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which searches for and identifies missing military personnel and civilians, excavated the site and found additional bone fragments and identification tags.
Military records along with dental records and mitochondrial DNA were used to identify the remains.
Pascual, who said he served as an Army Specialist in Vietnam in 1966, said military officials told him a few years ago they were trying to identify remains found at the site.
Military officials took a mitochondrial DNA sample from one of his female cousins, he said.
The other men identified along with Pascual are 1st Lt. David P. McMurray, of Melrose, Mass.; 2nd Lt. Millard C. Wells Jr., of Paris, Ky.; Tech. Sgt. Leonard J. Ray, of Upper Falls, Md.; Tech. Sgt. Hyman L. Stiglitz, of Boston; Staff Sgt. Robert L. Cotey, of Vergennes, Vt.; Staff Sgt. Francis E. Larrivee, of Laconia, N.H.; Staff Sgt. Robert J. Flood, of Neelyton, Pa.; and Staff Sgt. Walter O. Schlosser, of Lake City, Mich.
Thursday, Pascual leafed through his father's military records and talked about him. He said he'd bury his father at Arlington.
"It's fitting," he said. "He'll finally be buried right."
May Lt Pascual finally rest in peace.
Absolutely amazing.... Crash stayed hidden for nearly 60 years before someone found it....!
Nice story. Full Military Honors!
Thats great that they found them. I have a relative (Jack) that was also lost in a B24. Maybe some day they will find that crew. My Great Uncle who is real into Geneology typed up Jack's diary for me and it has some interesting things in it. I'll have to share sometime.
Never too late for a hero to come home.