WASHINGTON, D.C. — The remains of a pilot from Benson, Minn., who was killed in World War II, have been identified.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the remains of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William J. McGowan, 23, of Benson were identified May 13, 2019.
McGowan will be buried July 26, 2020, at the Normandy American Cemetery in France.
McGowan was a member of the 391st Fighter Squadron, 366th Fighter Group, 9th U.S. Air Force. He was killed June 6, 1944, on D-Day, when the P-47 Thunderbolt he was piloting crashed while on a mission near the city of Saint-Lô, France.
In 1947, based on information from a French citizen, the American Graves Registration Command investigated a crash site near the village of Moon-sur-Elle that was possibly associated with McGowan’s loss.
An investigator traveled to the site and learned from witnesses that the aircraft burned for more than a full day after impact and it had been embedded deeply into the ground.
A team removed wreckage from the impact crater but failed to locate McGowan’s remains. As a result, on Dec. 23, 1947, his remains were declared nonrecoverable.
In 2010, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command traveled to Moon-sur-Elle to interview witnesses and survey the crash site. During the survey, the team found numerous pieces of aircraft debris and recommended the site for excavation.
In July and August 2018, excavation of the site led to possible remains, which were sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.
Dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence, were used to identify McGowan’s remains.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently, there are 72,639 service members still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable.
McGowan’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Normandy American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
This story has been updated to correct McGowan's burial date previously released by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The correct burial date is July 26, 2020, at the Normandy American Cemetery in France.