More than 70 years ago, a US Army plane was headed for India on a supply mission. It never arrived, and no one went looking for the doomed aircraft or the eight men on board because military officials had no way of pinpointing where it went down. All signs of the mission were lost until 2006, when a hiker in India spotted a wing and panel sign inscribed with the bomber’s name. It wasn’t until 2015 that the US Defense Department investigated the crash site and found the remains of 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford. On Thursday, Oxford will finally be returned home and laid to rest with full military honors in his hometown of Concord, Georgia, the AP reports. Photos of Oxford’s seven fellow crewmen, none of whom were found, will be placed inside his coffin for burial.
Oxford’s plane departed Kumming, China, on Jan. 25, 1944, said Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus at the Defense Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Agency. Oxford was declared dead two years later. Oxford’s family didn’t know the wreckage had been found until 2007. Harmful weather coupled with access issues and security delayed recovery operation efforts until late 2015, Duus said. Officials say a DNA analysis of Oxford’s remains matched his niece and nephew. Though Oxford’s parents, siblings, and any other relatives who saw him leave for World War II have all died since he went missing, a relative said the niece and nephew were “shocked and excited” when they heard the news. Duus said Oxford is one of 74 veterans who have been identified so far this year.