ROCK ISLAND, ILL. -- (April 12, 2014) Lt. Louis Longman, of Clinton, Iowa -- "Looey" to his affectionate family -- went missing in a storm in a P-38J Lightning fighter plane in 1944 at age 26. His remains were returned to his family in a funeral April 12 at Rock Island National Cemetery.

A flight of F-16s, from the North Dakota Air National Guard, flew over the funeral to commemorate the internment, which was given full military honors.

Longman, nephew of the fallen pilot, said the funeral brought closure to the extensive Longman family, and that it was the end of a long chain of events.

"They (the Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command -- Central Identification Laboratory, or JPAC) contacted me in 2012 to ask for DNA," Garry Longman said. "The lady who called me said they were looking at WWII deaths because the immediate families of the WWII veterans were passing away."

He said he got an email in 2014, confirming that his uncle's remains had been found. Initially identified by the serial number on his .45 caliber sidearm, turned in by a native of New Guinea where he crashed, and by numbers on his aircraft, Longman's remains were returned to his family.

"I wish it had happened while my father was still alive," Gary Longman said. He said his father, Lt. Richard Longman, had been a B-17 navigator who spent 14 months in a German POW camp, returning home at the end of the war to learn of his brother's death. After retiring, he "made a hobby" of searching for his brother, using his navigator skills to determine how far and at what speed the missing plane could have gone.

"When he was 90, he wanted us to take him to the South Pacific and go looking," Longman said.

"We have a lot of snapshots of them, and my father talked about him -- he wasn't really a stranger to us," Sheryl Longman said.

Another nephew of Longman's found a mention of him in "Possum, Clover and Hades," a book about the 475th Fighter Group in which he served. "It's a big, coffee-table sized book and my brother was in a big chain book store when he opened it and found a mention of my uncle. Apparently, the fighter pilots would play 'chicken' with Jeeps during their off-duty hours," Gary Longman said. "That hole fighter-pilot thing."

Lt. Louis Longman disappeared on April 16, 1944, a day known as "Black Sunday," in which his bomber escort mission near Hollandia, New Guinea, encountered a severe storm system. The 5th Air Force lost 53 pilots and crewmen to the storm.

Displayed during the press conference was the fighter pilot's foot locker, containing the cold-weather gear he'd shipped home from the South Pacific as not needed during his service there. A steady string of Longman relatives entered the Rock Island National Cemetery administration building to view the artifacts, on loan from the Swift County Historical Society museum in Benson, Minn.

Gary Longman said the brothers had been orphaned at an early age, and raised along with seven other siblings by a number of family members in Clinton, Iowa.

"The last time the brothers saw each other was in 1941," he said. "Dad talked about him all the time, not specific incidents, but just the camaraderie they all shared. They were orphaned during the Depression and they had extremely strong emotional ties to each other. They were very close."

Sheryl Longman, a niece of the missing pilot, called the funeral a "joyous event" for her family.

"We grew up being told that Looey had been lost in the ocean in a violent storm," she said. "I just want to thank the people who found him. We're so grateful to the people of New Guinea who found the remains.

"We have a lot of snapshots of them, and my father talked about him -- he wasn't really a stranger to us," Sheryl Longman said.