WWII pilot missing since 1944 laid to rest
Second Lt. Robert R. Keown was piloting his P-38 aircraft to an airfield after a mission in 1944 when it crashed into a mountain in Papua New Guinea. World War II ended without Keown’s family knowing what had happened to him, and the military later declared him dead.
Decades later, a villager found human remains in a swampy area near the mountain. Another resident of the Pacific island snapped a photo of the rusted wreckage of a warplane years after that.
With all those puzzle pieces finally assembled and through the help of genetic testing, remains of the Georgia native and Alabama resident are back on U.S. soil. Relatives gathered at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., on Friday afternoon for the long-delayed funeral of Keown.
The ceremony included a flag-draped coffin that was folded up and given to nephew John Keown of Decatur, Ga., and an honor guard for the fallen P-38 pilot, who grew up near Atlanta in Lawrenceville, Ga., before moving to Scottsboro, Ala.
Keown was 24 and serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces, the predecessor to today’s Air Force, when he died.
More than 400,000 Americans died in World War II, and the Pentagon says nearly 73,000 of them remain unaccounted for.