KEENE, N.H. (AP) – Nearly four years after their remains were found, Sgt. Francis E. Larrivee of Laconia and his crew mates from World War II will be put to rest.

Larrivee, whose remains were identified last fall, was a member of the 492nd Bomb Group Second Air Division, specifically the “McMurray crew,” named after its pilot, David P. McMurray. They were aboard a B-24J Liberator on a mission to bomb a German aircraft factory near Bernburg, Germany.

The plane, which departed North Pickenham, England, was last seen by U.S. aircrew members in that area. Captured records showed that it crashed near Westeregeln, about 20 miles northwest of the target, on July 7, 1944, the Defense Department said.

Larrivee’s daughter, Judith O’Connor, formerly of Keene, was just a baby when her father died at the age of 21. Although she never knew him, she is proud of his service and thrilled he will be honored at Arlington National Memorial Cemetery in Washington on June 12.

“Not a day goes by since I was born that he hasn’t been on my mind,” she said. “I’ve waited 64 years, and I’m finally bringing my dad home.”

She and her husband and sons will meet members of the families of the other crew members in Washington, the day before six of the nine are buried in Arlington. Three families chose to have private burials, O’Connor said.

The tale of Larrivee’s homecoming took many interesting twists, and even involved the detective work of a Keene police department secretary.

In 2000, O’Connor contacted a veterans group in Denver, which called upon the services of Enrico Schwartz and the Missing Allied Air Crew Research Team.

When the team, which Schwartz runs with his own money, found the crash site, he contacted the Keene Police Department for O’Connor’s phone number, which was unlisted.

Sheryl A. Beckta, a secretary in the detectives’ division, tracked O’Connor down from Keene to Florida, and told her of the discovery.

“It’s been a waiting game,” O’Connor said, as she has dealt with the Veterans’ Administration, the Department of Army and the Pentagon while waiting to bury her father.

A group of German citizens learned of a potential crash site south of Westeregeln in 2001. Later that year and in early 2002 they uncovered human remains from what appeared to be two burial locations, the Pentagon said. The remains, including identification tags, were turned over to U.S. officials.

In 2003, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command excavated the crash site and found additional remains, identification tags and non-biological material evidence.

Scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental records, mitochondrial DNA and other tools to identify the remains.

Larrivee enlisted a private in the Army Air Corps on Jan. 19, 1942. He was single and had three years of high school behind him, according to military enlistment records. At some point he was married. His wife, Elizabeth Ann, and baby Judith lived in Franklin in July 1944, according to old news reports.

Larrivee was shot down at least twice and survived, but was listed in missing in action over Germany on July 7, the time the plane was shot down.

O’Connor is also looking forward to the full military funerals the crew members will receive, and the fact that she can place family photos and a personal letter in her father’s casket.

O’Connor grew up reading the few letters her father sent home to his wife and parents, where he sent his love to them and his “baby girl,” she said.

Choking back tears, O’Connor said she hasn’t yet written the letter, but knows what she will say to the father she never knew.

“I want to say that his baby girl loves him,” O’Connor said. “… That I would hope he’s proud of me; that he has wonderful grandchildren that are carrying on his name; that I love him and I’m so proud he served his country.”



Information from: The Keene Sentinel, http://www.keenesentinel.com

AP-ES-05-25-08 1100EDT


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