A soldier killed on enemy soil during World War II has finally been identified decades later.
For nearly 80 years, the remains of Second Lieutenant David Lewis of Dallas were unidentified.
Throughout that seemingly endless period of time, members of his family sent letters to the military requesting updates, never giving up hope. His closest living relative, Vivian-Dennis-Monzingo, who was 5 years old when he died, said that her knowledge of him was obtained through classified documents provided by the U.S. Army.
Lewis volunteered for the Army Air Forces at the age of 19, and was deployed to Europe during World War II.
On August 1, 1943, just four days before his 21st birthday, he lost his life when he and nine other crew members were shot down during a large low-altitude bombing mission on Romanian oil fields. He and the crew had been working aboard a B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-40312), nicknamed “Aire Lobo,” on a large-scale air raid on the oil refineries in Ploesti.
“It was called TIDAL WAVE, and it was especially dangerous,” Monzingo said.
When Lewis’ remains were not identified, he was buried as an unknown person in Romania. After the war, the American Graves Registration Command, the organization responsible for recovering fallen American personnel, disinterred his body, seemingly in the hopes of identifying him. When efforts to identify his remains failed, he was laid to rest at an American cemetery in Belgium, along with 80 other unknown soldiers.
“It was a very prominent discussion in my time,” said Monzingo. “Most people probably thought it was gone forever.”
The situation turned around in 2017 when 80% of Lewis’ remains were exhumed in Belgium. Thanks to changes in technology, the remains were taken to a lab in Nebraska for DNA testing, and the result showed that they matched with two maternal relatives.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Lewis’ body was accounted for on May 11, 2022.
“It was, I guess, elation, somewhat, I was very happy. Then there’s sadness because the ones that were like so – like their son – they’re gone,” Monzingo said in reaction to the development.
Monzingo said Lewis will be laid to rest alongside relatives, including his mother, at Old Saltillo Cemetery in Hopkins County. The ceremony is scheduled to be held in July 2023 during an annual Memorial Day celebration at the cemetery.
On her thoughts about the ceremony, Monzingo said she believes it will be very meaningful. More than the closure she was given, she hopes the story gives hope to families of all veterans who remain unidentified.