THE remains of a Second World War American fighter pilot have been discovered 18ft underground in Newton next Toft farmland – putting an end to a 68-year mystery.
2nd Lt Charles Moritz – known as Butch – went missing on June 7, 1944 when his P51 mustang bomber collided with another aircraft during a training exercise.
In September 2011 Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group (LARG) had been excavating for the aircraft flown by Robert Magnusson who had parachuted to safety – nothing could have prepared them for the discovery they were about to make.
“When we found the remains I felt shock and then I burst into tears – it was so emotional but such an honour,” said Catherine Marshall-East, who was due to represent LARG with her husband John at Lt Moritz’s funeral in Effingham, Illinois on Saturday.
Catherine – who has named her dog, Butch, after Lt Moritz – said: “When we were driving up there that morning I felt such a strong, strange feeling – it was meant to be, we were meant to find Butch.
“I really need to tell his family exactly what happened and how it was to be there. His parachute was intact and the smell of aviation fuel was uncanny. We tried to do everything as respectfully as we could. We even used an American war time flag, with fewer stars, to cover the box with the remains.”
The group found the pilot’s dog tags, military identification, lighter, family business details and his wallet still containing money. All of these things have since been taken back to Lt Moritz’s family.
“We even found the tab used to close his wallet – it still had the indentation from his thumb, it was clearly very well used and will mean so much to his family,” said Catherine, from Thimbleby.
“Butch’s father came over to England after the war to find any remnants of his son – he couldn’t find anything so he went home broken hearted.
“And his mother died very young because she never totally recovered from the tragedy of what happened.
“The rest of his family hasn’t known what has happened for the last 68 years.”
A team from American Missing in Action Command visited the site in late September and carried out a more detailed fingertip search to make sure everything relating to Moritz was found.
The remains were taken to Hawaii for formal identification and in February 2012 it was announced that it was indeed 2nd Lt Charles Moritz who had been classed as missing for 68 years.
The remains of Moritz were returned to his home town of Effingham, Illinois with motorcycle escort provided by the Patriot Guard.
He was due to be buried – next to his parents – on May 5 with full military honours.
The wreckage from the crash will eventually go on display at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirkby.