Saturday, 2 Mar 2024

Missing WWII pilot's body found 79 years after he crashed during mission

A hero World War II fighter pilot who crashed and vanished during a mission has been identified 79 years later.

The remains of Second Lieutenant Fred L Brewer Jr, 23, were identified on August 10, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

Brewer, one of less than 1,000 black pilots who were trained in a segregated airfield, flew a single-seat P-51C Mustang nicknamed Traveling Light out of Ramitelli Air Field in Italy on October 19, 1944.

The member of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, was one of 57 fighters in a bomber escort mission targeting enemies in Regensburg, Germany. They departed from Ramitelli and broke off into three groups, but heavy cloud cover forced nine of them to return to the Italian air field.

Eventually, none of the remaining fighters could track down the bomber aircraft and 47 fighters went back to the base.

Brewer was not one of them.

‘Reports from other pilots on the mission indicate that 2nd Lt Brewer had been attempting to climb his aircraft out of the cloud cover but stalled out and fell into a spin,’ stated the DPAA.

At the end of the war, US personnel recovered a body from a civilian cemetery but it could not be identified and was marked as unknown.

In 2011, researchers examined the remains and found an Italian police report noting that they were recovered from a crashed fighter jet the same day that Brewer vanished. War records from Germany corroborated that.

The remains were disinterred in June 2022 and sent to a DPAA lab, which led to the positive identification of Brewer.

Brewer’s cousin, Robena Brewer Harrison, said: ‘I remember how devastating it was when they notified my family, my aunt and uncle, that he was missing.’

‘It just left a void within our family,’ Harrison told local media. ‘My aunt, who was his mother, Janie, she never, ever recovered from that.’

Brewer’s name was on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Impruneta, Italy. The DPAA will add a rosette next to his name to show that he has been accounted for, nearly eight decades later.

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