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Texas pilot killed in WWII identified nearly 80 years later

He co-piloted a B-24 Liberator aircraft nicknamed "Aire Lobo," which was shot down during Operation TIDAL WAVE in Romania in 1943. All 10 people aboard were killed.
Credit: Air Force

WASHINGTON — The remains of a Texas pilot killed in World War II have been identified nearly 80 years after he died in a crash during a bombing mission in Romania, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Monday.

The pilot was identified as U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. David M. Lewis, 20, of Dallas. Lewis was a pilot assigned to the 345th Bombardment Squadron in the Air Force in the summer of 1943. 

On Aug. 1, 1943, Lewis was a co-pilot on a B-24 Liberator aircraft nicknamed "Aire Lobo" and was shot down during Operation TIDAL WAVE, the largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti in Romania, according to DPAA. All ten of the crew aboard "Aire Lobo" were killed in the crash.

Credit: Air Force

Lewis' remains were not identified following WWII, and his then-unidentified remains were buried as unknown in the hero section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania. After the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), an organization that searched for and recovered fallen soldiers, exhumed all American remains from the Bolovan Cemetery for identification, but were unable to identify 80 people, the DPAA said. Those 80 remains were then buried at two Belgium sites: Ardennes American Cemetery and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery.

Credit: Air Force

Then, more than 70 years later in 2017, the DPAA began exhuming "unknowns" believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen from Operation TIDAL WAVE, which were sent to its laboratory in Nebraska.

At the Offutt Air Force Base lab, DPAA scientists were able to identify Lewis' remains using anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence, DPAA officials said. Lewis was identified and "accounted for" on May 11. 

Lewis' name is now recorded on the tablets of the missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Back in the Lone Star State, Lewis will be buried in the town of Saltillo – in between Sulphur Springs and Mt. Vernon on Hwy. 67 – on a date yet to be determined.

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