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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Remains of Local WWII Pilot Identified 79 Years Later


U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. David M. Lewis | Image by U.S. Air Force

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A local hero, missing in action for nearly 80 years, is finally coming home after being accounted for on May 11, 2022, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Monday.

U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. David M. Lewis, 20, a native of Arlington, Texas, was killed in battle during World War II, but his remains had not been identified until recently. However, thanks to the continuing efforts of the DPAA, his remains are being returned to Texas for a local burial service.

Lewis was born on August 1, 1922, and in 1942, at 19, he volunteered for military duty. By April 1943, he was serving overseas, first in Rome, then in Romania. He was assigned to the 345th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force.

Lewis, the copilot of a B-24 Liberator aircraft, was killed during Operation TIDAL WAVE, the largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania, in one of the most daring raids of WWII.

The plane crashed after being struck by anti-aircraft fire, and all ten crew members, including Lewis, perished. Lewis died on August 1, 1943, on his 21st birthday. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his valor and heroism.

The bodies of four crew members were recovered from the crash, but Lewis’ body could not be identified and was buried as an “Unknown” in a military cemetery in Romania. The remains were later moved to a cemetery in Belgium.

In 2017, the DPAA began exhuming the “Unknowns” believed to have been killed in Operation TIDAL WAVE in hopes of identifying the remains. Using anthropological analysis, circumstantial evidence, and DNA analysis, scientists were able to positively identify Lewis’ remains.

Lewis will be interred in Saltillo, Texas, but the date for the funeral service has not yet been determined.    

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