The remains of a United States Air Force pilot have been identified almost 80 years after he helped save the lives of seven airmen during World War II, officials announced this week.
Lt. William B. Montgomery, a 24-year-old from 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 focuses specifically on recovering missing American military personnel. DPAA confirmed in a news release that Montgomery was accounted for in January, nearly eight decades after investigators declared his body non-recoverable while conducting land surveys in the years that followed the war.
Montgomery was killed on June 22, 1944, when the aircraft he was piloting went down near the coast of the United Kingdom. At the time, he was assigned to a bomb squadron within the Army's Eighth Air Force, according to DPAA. On the day of his death, Montgomery was piloting a B-24H Liberator bomber, carrying 10 crew members including himself.
After a raid on a German airfield in Saint-Cyr-l'École, near Versailles, France, Montgomery's crew was struck by anti-aircraft that damaged the plane. But the lieutenant was still able to fly the aircraft until it reached the U.K., a feat that officials say was possible because of Montgomery's "piloting skill." He then ordered the crew to exit the plane before it crashed into a farm in West Sussex, England.
"Despite the damage to the B-24 Liberator, Montgomery's piloting skill allowed him to nurse the aircraft until it was over the English coast, whereupon he ordered his crew to bail out," DPAA wrote in its announcement confirming Montgomery had been identified. "Seven of the airmen parachuted successfully while the other three crew members, including Montgomery, were still on board. Two of the crew witnessed the aircraft crashed into a farm in West Sussex, England."
Several attempts to recover human remains and aircraft remnants from the crash site in the decades since the crash were unsuccessful. Montgomery's remains were among those eventually found during a DPAA investigation conducted in 2021, the agency said. Scientists at the agency used mitochondrial DNA analysis, "anthropological analysis as well as material evidence" to confirm his identity.
Montgomery will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia at an undetermined future date, the agency said.