A World War II airman’s “piloting skill” helped save 7 soldiers from a crash in 1944. His remains have now been identified.
The remains of a U.S. Air Force pilot have been identified nearly 80 years after he saved the lives of seven airmen during World War II, officials announced this week.
Lt. William B. Montgomery, 24, of Ford City, Pennsylvania, died in the summer of 1944, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense that specializes in recovering missing persons. Focuses. US military personnel. DPAA confirmed in a News release Montgomery was accounted for in January, nearly eight decades after investigators surveying the ground in the post-war years declared his body unrecoverable.
Montgomery was killed on June 22, 1944, when the plane he was piloting crashed off the coast of Great Britain. At the time, he was assigned to a bomb squadron within the Army’s Eighth Air Force, according to the DPAA. On the day of his death, Montgomery was piloting a B-24H Liberator bomber, with 10 crew members including himself.
After raiding a German airfield at Saint-Cyr-l’École near Versailles, France, Montgomery’s crew came under anti-aircraft fire which damaged the aircraft. But the lieutenant was still able to fly the plane until it reached Britain, a feat officials say was made possible by Montgomery’s “piloting skills.” He then ordered the crew to evacuate the ship before it crashed into a farm in West Sussex, England.
“Despite the damage to the B-24 Liberator, Montgomery’s piloting skills allowed him to maintain the aircraft until it reached the English coast, after which he bailed out his crew. Ordered,” the DPAA wrote in its announcement confirming Montgomery’s identity. “Seven of the airmen successfully parachuted while the other three crew members, including Montgomery, were still on board. Two of the crew saw the aircraft crash on a farm in West Sussex, England.”
In the decades following the crash, several attempts to recover human remains and aircraft remains from the crash site have been unsuccessful. Montgomery’s remains were among those eventually found during a DPAA investigation in 2021, the agency said. Agency scientists used mitochondrial DNA analysis, “anthropological analysis and material evidence” to confirm his identity.
Montgomery will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia at an unspecified future date, the agency said.