70 years later, WWII soldier returns home - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

70 years later, WWII soldier returns home

On May 7, 2014, while assessing logistical requirements for a future recovery, a Department of Defense team found material evidence including a boot with human remains in it near the pond. On May 7, 2014, while assessing logistical requirements for a future recovery, a Department of Defense team found material evidence including a boot with human remains in it near the pond.
Kiefer says he first learned of the recovery in 2010 when he was contacted by the U.S. Department of Defense asking him and his cousin to provide a DNA sample. Kiefer says he first learned of the recovery in 2010 when he was contacted by the U.S. Department of Defense asking him and his cousin to provide a DNA sample.
Harry B. McGuire (Photo: 449th Bomb Squad Group H organization) Harry B. McGuire (Photo: 449th Bomb Squad Group H organization)
Kendall Crew. McGuire is second from the left on the bottom row. (Source: 449th Bomb Group H organization) Kendall Crew. McGuire is second from the left on the bottom row. (Source: 449th Bomb Group H organization)
CHESTER, IL (KFVS) - After 70 years, a fallen southern Illinois soldier is returning home. It's an emotional homecoming that has been years in the making.

Second Lieutenant Harry B. McGuire served in World War II in the European Theater.

He went missing after his plane was shot down in 1944. McGuire was a navigator on the plane.

U. S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Harry B. McGuire, 24, of Chester, Ill. was a navigator on board a B-24H Liberator that was bombed in WWII in 1944. McGuire and elements of the 718 Sqaudron, 449th Bomber Group and the 15th Air Force, were flying out of Grottaglie, Italy.

The plane crashed after being hit and ended up landing on the Island of Morgo in Italy. 

Ten soldiers were on board when the plane was shot down by enemy forces while returning from the mission against enemy forces near Udine, Italy. Two soldiers' remains were discovered and one serviceman survived the crash and was captured by enemy forces. The remaining seven remained on board the aircraft. They were considered dead and non-recoverable.

McGuire's nephew, Harry Kiefer, shed more light on his namesake on Tuesday and the latest efforts regarding the recovery of McGuire's remains.

Kiefer says he first learned of the recovery in 2010 when he was contacted by the U.S. Department of Defense asking him and his cousin to provide a DNA sample. Kiefer learned at that time that the a portion of the plane was discovered and possibly contained the seven soldiers inside.

Kiefer says when the plane crashed, a lot of the pieces were gathered by enemy forces and were recycled for their use during the war. The portion of the plane containing the soldiers was hidden and buried in a swamp on the Island of Morgo under 10 feet of water that wasn't discovered until 2010.

On May 7, 2014, while assessing logistical requirements for a future recovery, a Department of Defense team found material evidence including a boot with human remains in it near the pond.

In March of 2015, the remains were positively identified that of Harry B. McGuire.

McGuire had two sisters and one brother. One sister lives in Florida while the other sister and brother have passed. The sister that passed away is Kiefer's mother. Kiefer learned a lot about McGuire growing up and was even named Harry after his uncle Harry McGuire.

Over the years, Kiefer has collected items and gathered any information he could of McGuire. McGuire earned several medals including the Purple Heart which Kiefer holds dear. Along with his World War II collection is now his uncle's boot. Kiefer has kept it sealed the whole time since he had been given it to him by the government.

Kiefer says this is an emotional time not only finding out the remains were found of his uncle, but learning of the stories of McGuire and understanding how much he meant to his mother.

"Wow I can't express it," Larry McGuire said. "I don't know, it's overwhelming." 

Larry McGuire is from Chester, Ill. and is Harry McGuire's second cousin.

Larry McGuire said it's great to know that there is closure.

"Well how can you describe that?" Larry McGuire asked. "That a man who's related to you, but you don't really know is coming home to his final resting place. It's kind of overwhelming isn't it?"

Larry McGuire found out about his WWII relative two years ago, and started his research.

With Harry McGuire returning home, Larry is hoping to reconnect with other McGuires who have disbursed from Chester.

"I hope somebody from Harry's side of the family contacts me," Larry said. "I would like to know more about Harry. I'd like to know more about my great uncle side of the family."

Kiefer hopes the American and Italian government can figure out a way to complete the recovery efforts of the plane and bring back the rest of McGuire and the other six on board.

Kiefer decided it was best to not wait for McGuire's other remains and to go ahead and bury the remains currently collected. McGuire will have full military honors. Services will be held at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis on Wednesday, June 3, at 2 p.m.

Governor Rauner has requested that all people and entities covered by the Illinois flag display act, fly the flags at half staff starting at sunrise Monday, honoring the late Harry B. McGuire.

According to the Department of Defense, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, McGuire will be buried on June 3 at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. His remains will be transported from Hawaii to St. Louis and then escorted by military personnel.

DNA was used to identify his remains on March 10.

The remains of the others who were on the plane when it crashed off the coast of Italy have not been found.

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Copyright 2015 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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