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Alabama World War II pilot to get proper burial 76 years after crash

By HOWARD KOPLOWITZ | Alabama Media Group | Published: May 10, 2019

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Tribune News Service) — When Air Force Second Lt. Walter B. Stone’s plane crashed in Nazi-occupied France in World War II, the Alabama native’s family had no hope for a proper burial.

Stone, a pilot in the 350th Fighter Squadron, 353rd Fighter Group, VIII U.S. Fighter Command, was killed on Oct. 22, 1943 when his plane crashed in northern France during a bomber escort mission, according to the Department of Defense. A search and recovery operation for Stone was not made at the time because the crash site in northern France was occupied by the Nazis.

But about 76 years later, the 24-year-old pilot’s remains will be buried Saturday in Andalusia – about a year after Stone’s remains were identified.

In 1990, a French excavation group began an excavation of the site in a forest near La Wattine, France, where Stone was believed to have crashed. Excavators found plane wreckage that matched the lieutenant’s aircraft, prompting an investigation.

A recovery team with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency – which aims to missing prisoners of war or military members declared missing in action – excavated a site based on information from a local resident, where the team found remains and an ID tag for Stone.

More remains were found when the site excavation was completed in 2018. DPAA scientists used circumstantial and material evidence to identify Stone’s remains.

Stone is among the names listed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium.

A rosette has been placed next to his name to mark that he has been accounted for.

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