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This combination of undated photos released Thursday, June 21, 2018 by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency shows five U.S. Army Air Forces airmen, members of a B-17 bomber crew, who were shot down in 1944 during a mission over Germany in World War II. They are, top row from left: Tech. Sgt. John F. Brady, of Taunton, Mass., Tech. Sgt. Allen A. Chandler, Jr., of Fletcher, Okla., and 1st Lt. John H. Liekhus, of Anaheim, Calif.; bottom row, from left: Staff Sgt. Robert O. Shoemaker, of Tacoma Park, Md., and Staff Sgt. Bobby J. Younger, of McKinney, Texas. Their remains will be buried as a group on June 27 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

This combination of undated photos released Thursday, June 21, 2018 by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency shows five U.S. Army Air Forces airmen, members of a B-17 bomber crew, who were shot down in 1944 during a mission over Germany in World War II. They are, top row from left: Tech. Sgt. John F. Brady, of Taunton, Mass., Tech. Sgt. Allen A. Chandler, Jr., of Fletcher, Okla., and 1st Lt. John H. Liekhus, of Anaheim, Calif.; bottom row, from left: Staff Sgt. Robert O. Shoemaker, of Tacoma Park, Md., and Staff Sgt. Bobby J. Younger, of McKinney, Texas. Their remains will be buried as a group on June 27 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency via AP)

This combination of undated photos released Thursday, June 21, 2018 by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency shows five U.S. Army Air Forces airmen, members of a B-17 bomber crew, who were shot down in 1944 during a mission over Germany in World War II. They are, top row from left: Tech. Sgt. John F. Brady, of Taunton, Mass., Tech. Sgt. Allen A. Chandler, Jr., of Fletcher, Okla., and 1st Lt. John H. Liekhus, of Anaheim, Calif.; bottom row, from left: Staff Sgt. Robert O. Shoemaker, of Tacoma Park, Md., and Staff Sgt. Bobby J. Younger, of McKinney, Texas. Their remains will be buried as a group on June 27 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

This combination of undated photos released Thursday, June 21, 2018 by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency shows five U.S. Army Air Forces airmen, members of a B-17 bomber crew, who were shot down in 1944 during a mission over Germany in World War II. They are, top row from left: Tech. Sgt. John F. Brady, of Taunton, Mass., Tech. Sgt. Allen A. Chandler, Jr., of Fletcher, Okla., and 1st Lt. John H. Liekhus, of Anaheim, Calif.; bottom row, from left: Staff Sgt. Robert O. Shoemaker, of Tacoma Park, Md., and Staff Sgt. Bobby J. Younger, of McKinney, Texas. Their remains will be buried as a group on June 27 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency via AP)

A flag-draped coffin carries the commingled remains of five World War II airmen who died during a mission in Germany in 1944. They were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018.

A flag-draped coffin carries the commingled remains of five World War II airmen who died during a mission in Germany in 1944. They were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Matthew Whitehead prays over the commingled remains of the five airmen who died during a mission in Germany on Nov. 2, 1944. They were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018.

U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Matthew Whitehead prays over the commingled remains of the five airmen who died during a mission in Germany on Nov. 2, 1944. They were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Matthew Whitehead sprinkles holy water on a coffin with the commingled remains of five World War II airmen at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018.

U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Matthew Whitehead sprinkles holy water on a coffin with the commingled remains of five World War II airmen at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

A three volley rifle is performed at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018 for five World War II airmen who died during a mission in Germany in 1944.

A three volley rifle is performed at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018 for five World War II airmen who died during a mission in Germany in 1944. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

The remains of five World War II airmen were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. The five airmen were killed on Nov. 2, 1944 and were accounted for on Aug. 10, 2017.

The remains of five World War II airmen were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. The five airmen were killed on Nov. 2, 1944 and were accounted for on Aug. 10, 2017. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

Five WWII airmen who died during a mission in Germany were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018.

Five WWII airmen who died during a mission in Germany were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

The Old Guard fold a flag over the coffin of Staff Sgt. Robert Shoemaker during a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for five airmen killed during World War II on June 27, 2018.

The Old Guard fold a flag over the coffin of Staff Sgt. Robert Shoemaker during a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for five airmen killed during World War II on June 27, 2018. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

Friends and family members of five airmen killed during World War II attend their joint funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018.

Friends and family members of five airmen killed during World War II attend their joint funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

A family holds a flag given to them by the Old Guard during the funeral of five airmen killed in WWII.

A family holds a flag given to them by the Old Guard during the funeral of five airmen killed in WWII. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

A family shares a quiet moment together during the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018, for five airmen that were killed during World War II.

A family shares a quiet moment together during the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018, for five airmen that were killed during World War II. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

The dog tags of several airmen who killed in World War II dangle from their coffin, where their remains are comingled. They were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018.

The dog tags of several airmen who killed in World War II dangle from their coffin, where their remains are comingled. They were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

The Old Guard fold a flag over the coffin of Staff Sgt. Robert Shoemaker during a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for five airmen killed during World War II on June 27, 2018.

The Old Guard fold a flag over the coffin of Staff Sgt. Robert Shoemaker during a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for five airmen killed during World War II on June 27, 2018. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

A family member is saluted during a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018, of five airmen killed during WWII.

A family member is saluted during a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018, of five airmen killed during WWII. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

The remains of five World War II airmen were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. The five airmen were killed on Nov. 2, 1944 and were accounted for on Aug. 10, 2017.

The remains of five World War II airmen were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. The five airmen were killed on Nov. 2, 1944 and were accounted for on Aug. 10, 2017. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

A flag-draped coffin carries the commingled remains of five World War II airmen who died during a mission in Germany in 1944. They were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018.

A flag-draped coffin carries the commingled remains of five World War II airmen who died during a mission in Germany in 1944. They were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery on June 27, 2018. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

ARLINGTON, Va. — They died together during a mission over Germany in 1944. For more than 70 years, the location of their remains was unknown. Wednesday afternoon, the five airmen were finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

“For over 150 years, our nation has honored her fallen warriors and patriots. These hallowed grounds are a lasting memorial to the men and the women who have honorably and faithfully served our country," U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Matthew Whitehead said during the burial ceremony in section 60.

“First Lt. John Liekhus, Tech Sgt. John Brady, Tech Sgt. Allen Chandler, Staff Sgt. Bobby Younger, Staff Sgt. Robert Shoemaker have all earned a resting place in these hallowed grounds.”

The U.S. Army Air Forces airmen were members of the 323rd Bombardment Squadron, 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eighth Air Force. On Nov. 2, 1944, they were part of a nine-man crew that joined an armada of bombers on a mission to Merseburg, Germany and the Leuna Werke, a sprawling chemical factory that produced synthetic fuels.

Their B-17 was hit by flak, or ground, anti-aircraft fire, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. As the B-17 fell out of formation, German fighters attacked. Witnesses reported seeing the aircraft burst into flames and then descend rapidly. Three crewmembers survived the crash and were taken prisoner. One of the airmen killed was identified in May 1945; the other five crewmembers were declared missing in action.

In the raid, 38 bombers were lost and 481 were damaged, according to an April 2007 Air Force Magazine article. The USAAF estimated that as many as 500 Luftwaffe fighters attacked and almost 400 men did not return. Many were missing in action after bailing out of their aircraft.

The Nov. 2nd mission was the deadliest, the article explained, but not the last of the missions to Leuna. Crews risked a half-dozen more missions over an array of at least 1,700 flak guns.

In 1951, the American Graves Registration Command concluded that 26-year-old Brady of Taunton, Massachusetts, 23-year-old Chandler of Fletcher, Oklahoma, 29-year-old Liekhus of Anaheim, California, 23-year-old Shoemaker of Takoma Park, Maryland, and 19-year-old Younger of McKinney, Texas, died in the crash, and confirmed that the location of their remains was unknown.

A few years ago, historians and analysts from the Department of Defense, German researchers and local government officials identified a potential crash site. Recovery operations were conducted from June to September 2015, then DPAA returned to the site in April and May, 2016. On both occasions, additional remains, material evidence and aircraft wreckage were found.

The five missing airmen were accounted for on Aug. 10, 2017.

Wednesday afternoon, rain preceded a chapel service at Arlington, so members of the Army’s Old Guard wore long black raincoats. A casket with Shoemaker’s remains was positioned near the burial site. Then the sky darkened, and the sound of a single drumbeat could be heard ahead of the horses pulling a flag-draped coffin that carried the commingled remains of all five airmen.

Relatives of each servicemember came to Arlington on Wednesday. During the flag presentations, the sun began to shine again.

“Our brothers served their country honorably,” Whitehead said. “They paid the ultimate price for the cause of freedom. Today we honor them with military honors. In life they honored the flag, so today, in death, the flag will honor them.”

king.lauren@stripes.com Twitter: @laurenking

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