Wichita native, WWII soldier to be buried in hometown 80 years after death
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Eighty years after his death serving in World War II, a soldier from Wichita will have his final rest close to home. Plans call for U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Wesley L. Jones to be interred Sept. 23 at Wichita Parks Cemetery. A news release from the U.S. Army said Hillside Funeral Home will perform graveside services preceding the internment.
The American Airlines flight carrying Jones’ remains landed in Wichita late Thursday night. Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport Police and Fire told welcomed the soldier home with a Water Salute.
Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport Police & Fire says welcome home after 80 years, to U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Wesley L. Jones. The B-24 he was on crashed after taking on enemy fire in Romania. Late last night after delays AP&F provided a Water Salute. @FlyICT pic.twitter.com/K2kAcKgCYp— Chief Roger Xanders (@ictpolicenfire) September 15, 2023
The U.S. Army said Jones was a gunner assigned to the 345th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force.
“He was serving aboard a B-24 Liberator bomber when it crashed on Aug. 1, 1943, after being hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire during Operation TIDAL WAVE, the largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania,” the Army said.
Jones was 22 years old. His remains weren’t identified for several decades.
“Following the war, the American Graves Registration Command disinterred all American remains from the Bolovan Cemetery for identification. More than 80 unknowns could not be identified and were permanently interred at Ardennes American Cemetery and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, both in Belgium,” the Army explained.
Advances in DNA technology made closure possible for Jones’ family and opened the door for his remains to be returned to Wichita.
“In 2017, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began exhuming unknowns believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen from Operation TIDAL WAVE losses, sending the remains to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for examination and identification,” the Army said.
In March, a chest radiograph comparison “and circumstantial evidence, as well as dental anthropological, mitochondrial DNA analysis,” led to a positive identity on Jones’ remains.
“His name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Florence American Cemetery in Impruneta, Italy, along with others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for,” the Army explained.
To learn more about the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving their country, you can visit the DPAA’s website at www.dpaa.mil. The organization also is on social media: www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.
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