MIA Pilot Killed in WWII Bombing Mission Buried at ANC

By Kevin Hymel, ANC HistorianSeptember 15, 2023

Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Montgomery in Section 78 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Sept. 13, 2023.

Montgomery served with the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eight Air Force, during World War II. On June 22, 1944, Montgomery’s B-24H bomber was struck by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a target in France. The damage caused an estimated 100 holes in the aircraft, and seriously compromised flight controls. The crew managed to reach England, where the order to bail out was given. Seven of the ten crew members successfully bailed out and survived, while Montgomery, the co-pilot, and the engineer crashed with the aircraft. While Montgomery’s identification tag was discovered at the crash site, his remains were not located, and the American Grave Registration Command concluded he was non-recoverable. 

A local aviation archaeology group attempted to excavate the crash site in 1974, and investigation and recovery efforts by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) took place in 2017 and 2019. During a subsequent June 2021 recovery mission, DPAA found possible human remains and material evidence.

To identify these remains as Montgomery’s, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), analysis. Montgomery’s remains were finally accounted for on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Montgomery’s awards include a Purple Heart and an Air Medal. Montgomery’s nephew, William Montgomery (who was named after his late uncle), received the U.S. flag from his uncle’s service. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Montgomery in Section 78 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Sept. 13, 2023.

Montgomery served with the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eight Air Force, during World War II. On June 22, 1944, Montgomery’s B-24H bomber was struck by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a target in France. The damage caused an estimated 100 holes in the aircraft, and seriously compromised flight controls. The crew managed to reach England, where the order to bail out was given. Seven of the ten crew members successfully bailed out and survived, while Montgomery, the co-pilot, and the engineer crashed with the aircraft. While Montgomery’s identification tag was discovered at the crash site, his remains were not located, and the American Grave Registration Command concluded he was non-recoverable.

A local aviation archaeology group attempted to excavate the crash site in 1974, and investigation and recovery efforts by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) took place in 2017 and 2019. During a subsequent June 2021 recovery mission, DPAA found possible human remains and material evidence.

To identify these remains as Montgomery’s, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), analysis. Montgomery’s remains were finally accounted for on Jan. 10, 2023.

Montgomery’s awards include a Purple Heart and an Air Medal. Montgomery’s nephew, William Montgomery (who was named after his late uncle), received the U.S. flag from his uncle’s service. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released) (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fraser)
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Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Montgomery in Section 78 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Sept. 13, 2023.

Montgomery served with the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eight Air Force, during World War II. On June 22, 1944, Montgomery’s B-24H bomber was struck by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a target in France. The damage caused an estimated 100 holes in the aircraft, and seriously compromised flight controls. The crew managed to reach England, where the order to bail out was given. Seven of the ten crew members successfully bailed out and survived, while Montgomery, the co-pilot, and the engineer crashed with the aircraft. While Montgomery’s identification tag was discovered at the crash site, his remains were not located, and the American Grave Registration Command concluded he was non-recoverable. 

A local aviation archaeology group attempted to excavate the crash site in 1974, and investigation and recovery efforts by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) took place in 2017 and 2019. During a subsequent June 2021 recovery mission, DPAA found possible human remains and material evidence.

To identify these remains as Montgomery’s, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), analysis. Montgomery’s remains were finally accounted for on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Montgomery’s awards include a Purple Heart and an Air Medal. Montgomery’s nephew, William Montgomery (who was named after his late uncle), received the U.S. flag from his uncle’s service. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Montgomery in Section 78 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Sept. 13, 2023.

Montgomery served with the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eight Air Force, during World War II. On June 22, 1944, Montgomery’s B-24H bomber was struck by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a target in France. The damage caused an estimated 100 holes in the aircraft, and seriously compromised flight controls. The crew managed to reach England, where the order to bail out was given. Seven of the ten crew members successfully bailed out and survived, while Montgomery, the co-pilot, and the engineer crashed with the aircraft. While Montgomery’s identification tag was discovered at the crash site, his remains were not located, and the American Grave Registration Command concluded he was non-recoverable.

A local aviation archaeology group attempted to excavate the crash site in 1974, and investigation and recovery efforts by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) took place in 2017 and 2019. During a subsequent June 2021 recovery mission, DPAA found possible human remains and material evidence.

To identify these remains as Montgomery’s, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), analysis. Montgomery’s remains were finally accounted for on Jan. 10, 2023.

Montgomery’s awards include a Purple Heart and an Air Medal. Montgomery’s nephew, William Montgomery (who was named after his late uncle), received the U.S. flag from his uncle’s service. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released) (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fraser)
VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Montgomery in Section 78 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Sept. 13, 2023.

Montgomery served with the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eight Air Force, during World War II. On June 22, 1944, Montgomery’s B-24H bomber was struck by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a target in France. The damage caused an estimated 100 holes in the aircraft, and seriously compromised flight controls. The crew managed to reach England, where the order to bail out was given. Seven of the ten crew members successfully bailed out and survived, while Montgomery, the co-pilot, and the engineer crashed with the aircraft. While Montgomery’s identification tag was discovered at the crash site, his remains were not located, and the American Grave Registration Command concluded he was non-recoverable. 

A local aviation archaeology group attempted to excavate the crash site in 1974, and investigation and recovery efforts by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) took place in 2017 and 2019. During a subsequent June 2021 recovery mission, DPAA found possible human remains and material evidence.

To identify these remains as Montgomery’s, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), analysis. Montgomery’s remains were finally accounted for on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Montgomery’s awards include a Purple Heart and an Air Medal. Montgomery’s nephew, William Montgomery (who was named after his late uncle), received the U.S. flag from his uncle’s service. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Montgomery in Section 78 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Sept. 13, 2023.

Montgomery served with the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eight Air Force, during World War II. On June 22, 1944, Montgomery’s B-24H bomber was struck by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a target in France. The damage caused an estimated 100 holes in the aircraft, and seriously compromised flight controls. The crew managed to reach England, where the order to bail out was given. Seven of the ten crew members successfully bailed out and survived, while Montgomery, the co-pilot, and the engineer crashed with the aircraft. While Montgomery’s identification tag was discovered at the crash site, his remains were not located, and the American Grave Registration Command concluded he was non-recoverable.

A local aviation archaeology group attempted to excavate the crash site in 1974, and investigation and recovery efforts by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) took place in 2017 and 2019. During a subsequent June 2021 recovery mission, DPAA found possible human remains and material evidence.

To identify these remains as Montgomery’s, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), analysis. Montgomery’s remains were finally accounted for on Jan. 10, 2023.

Montgomery’s awards include a Purple Heart and an Air Medal. Montgomery’s nephew, William Montgomery (who was named after his late uncle), received the U.S. flag from his uncle’s service. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released) (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fraser)
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Arlington National Cemetery Director of Operations Jay Walker offers condolences to William Montgomery following the funeral service for Montgomery's uncle, U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Montgomery in Section 78 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Sept. 13, 2023.

1st Lt. Montgomery served with the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eight Air Force, during World War II. On June 22, 1944, 1st Lt. Montgomery’s B-24H bomber was struck by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a target in France. The damage caused an estimated 100 holes in the aircraft, and seriously compromised flight controls. The crew managed to reach England, where the order to bail out was given. Seven of the ten crew members successfully bailed out and survived, while Montgomery, the co-pilot, and the engineer crashed with the aircraft. While 1st Lt. Montgomery’s identification tag was discovered at the crash site, his remains were not located, and the American Grave Registration Command concluded he was non-recoverable. 

A local aviation archaeology group attempted to excavate the crash site in 1974, and investigation and recovery efforts by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) took place in 2017 and 2019. During a subsequent June 2021 recovery mission, DPAA found possible human remains and material evidence.

To identify these remains as 1st Lt. Montgomery’s, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), analysis. 1st Lt. Montgomery’s remains were finally accounted for on Jan. 10, 2023. 

1st Lt. Montgomery’s awards include a Purple Heart and an Air Medal. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Arlington National Cemetery Director of Operations Jay Walker offers condolences to William Montgomery following the funeral service for Montgomery's uncle, U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Montgomery in Section 78 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Sept. 13, 2023.

1st Lt. Montgomery served with the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eight Air Force, during World War II. On June 22, 1944, 1st Lt. Montgomery’s B-24H bomber was struck by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a target in France. The damage caused an estimated 100 holes in the aircraft, and seriously compromised flight controls. The crew managed to reach England, where the order to bail out was given. Seven of the ten crew members successfully bailed out and survived, while Montgomery, the co-pilot, and the engineer crashed with the aircraft. While 1st Lt. Montgomery’s identification tag was discovered at the crash site, his remains were not located, and the American Grave Registration Command concluded he was non-recoverable.

A local aviation archaeology group attempted to excavate the crash site in 1974, and investigation and recovery efforts by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) took place in 2017 and 2019. During a subsequent June 2021 recovery mission, DPAA found possible human remains and material evidence.

To identify these remains as 1st Lt. Montgomery’s, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), analysis. 1st Lt. Montgomery’s remains were finally accounted for on Jan. 10, 2023.

1st Lt. Montgomery’s awards include a Purple Heart and an Air Medal. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released) (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fraser)
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1st Lt. William B. Montgomery with members of his crew.
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 1st Lt. William B. Montgomery with members of his crew. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Lt. William Baily Montgomery gave his life to save others. As a B-24 Liberator bomber pilot in the Eighth Air Force during World War II, his bomber took flak over Saint-Cyr, France, near the German border, on June 22, 1944. Montgomery and his copilot struggled to get their shot-up bomber home. Once they reached the English coast, Montgomery ordered his crew to bail out. Seven crewmen successfully left the aircraft, leaving Montgomery, his copilot, and engineer. The bomber crashed into a farm in West Sussex, England, killing the three.

Search crews recovered the copilot’s remains from the wreckage, but Montgomery and the engineer were both listed as missing in action and their names memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at the Cambridge Cemetery in England.

The U.S. Army Graves Registration Command and, later, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) never gave up the search for the two airmen. DPAA investigators searched the area numerous times before discovering human remains and material evidence in June 2021. The remains were sent to Dover Air Force Base, Del., where Montgomery’s remains were identified a year and half later.

At his funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 13, 2023, Lt. Montgomery’s nephew, William Baily Montgomery, stood to accept the American flag that had been draped over his uncle’s casket. “For what he did for our country,” the younger Montgomery later said, “he deserved to be here.”

Army Chaplain (Cpt.) Brady Feltz told the gathered family and friends that Lt. Montgomery had faithfully and honorably served his country and that he was a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, “signifying that he has shed his blood in defense of our nation.”

The officials offering Lt. Montgomery’s nephew condolences included four representatives from DPAA. “We not only research, identify, recover and bring a family member home,” said Mark Abueg, DPAA’s director of outreach and communications, “we support the family for whatever they need.”

William Montgomery, the nephew, appreciated the 79-year search for his uncle. “They never quit,” he said, adding, as he looked at the soldiers and civilians in attendance at the funeral. “They found him, and they did all this for us. It's greatly appreciated.”