Budapest, Hungary The remains of a U.S. airman whose plane was shot down over Hungary in World War II have been recovered from wreckage left unexcavated in a rural area for 63 years, American and Hungarian officials said Friday.
The remains of Staff Sgt. Martin F. Troy were found among the wreck of a B-24H "Liberator" bomber in the village of Nemesvita, about 110 miles southwest of the capital, Budapest. They will be returned to the U.S., officials said.
The location of the wreckage has been well known since the time of the crash - seven of the bomber's 10-man crew bailed out and the survivors gave an account about where it went down. They said Troy had likely died. But no one has gone back to thoroughly search the site since.
Troy, a native of Norwalk, Conn., was the only member of the bomber's crew who had yet to be fully accounted for. Though the identity of the remains must be confirmed by DNA testing, officials said there was virtually no doubt they belonged to Troy.
"After 63 years of being listed as 'killed in action, body not recovered,' this airman's family can finally experience closure," U.S. Ambassador to Hungary April H. Foley said at a ceremony to officially hand over the remains to the U.S.
The recovery was carried out by the U.S. military's Hawaii-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC, which identifies and recovers American soldiers killed in conflicts around the world.
Tens of thousands of people from some two dozen countries were known to have been killed during the war in Hungary, which was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1944. The country was then under communist rule until 1989 and would not have allowed an American military team in to search the crash site.
The wreckage was deemed "unrecoverable" in 1945 by the American Graves Registration Unit, because of its location. The bomber crashed into marshy land, creating a crater some six yards wide by 18 yards long which was covered by 2 to 3 feet of water.
"The site of the crash had been heavily salvaged over the years ... probably during the war," said anthropologist Bradley Sturm, the only civilian on the JPAC team. "Given the fact that there were tons of metal in that aircraft, there was hardly anything left."
He said Troy's bones were scattered around the crater caused by the crash, a few miles from Lake Balaton on privately owned land.
JPAC began making efforts to recover Troy's remains two years ago "because of congressional interest," said Marine Capt. George Murphy, the military leader of the JPAC team. One of the surviving crew members and other veterans lobbied for the JPAC mission. The original survivors from Troy's crew are all dead now, Sturm said.