81 years after his death, Oregon World War II airman to be buried at home with military honors


World War II soldier George Davies has returned home to Oregon to be decorated with military honors and be buried by his family nearly 81 years after he was pronounced missing in action in Europe.

Davies died Aug. 1, 1943 in a bombing run on Axis fighters’ critical source of fuel in Ploiesti, Romania. The 27-year-old graduate of Gresham High School flew 27 missions as an engineer and gunner before embarking on the Operation Tidal Wave flight that claimed his life.

On Monday, the U.S. Army Air Force staff sergeant will be interred at Willamette National Cemetery after a decades-long process to recover and then identify his remains, according to Davies’ niece, Francee Hillyer.

“It’s been really heartwarming to see everyone’s reactions,” Hillyer, 73, said. “He’s getting the credit he deserves.”

Davies was working as an assistant engineer on a B-24 Liberator nicknamed “Aire Lobo” when he died. It was one of the 51 Liberators that didn’t return from the 177-plane raid that launched from Benghazi, Libya.

Shortly after the war, the American Graves Registration Command recovered remains of unidentified soldiers from the “hero section” of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Romania, but could not identify Davies and more than 80 others, according to a press release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The registration command interred the unknown remains at the Ardennes American and Henri-Chapelle American cemeteries in Belgium.

The accounting agency — a government branch that searches for the bodies of soldiers who went missing or were prisoners of war — exhumed the gravesites in 2017. They officially declared Davies accounted for five years later.

In November, the agency called Hillyer to let her know they’d located Davies’ body. They flew his remains to Portland International Airport on June 6, on the anniversary of D-Day, Hilllyer said.

She was there with her family waiting on the tarmac when the escort arrived. Six men in military uniforms ushered his casket, adorned with the American flag, from the plane into a hearse to be transported to a funeral home.

“It was incredibly touching, and very respectful,” Hillyer said.

Davies was born in July 26, 1916 in Winnipeg, Canada to John and Amelia Davies, according to an online obituary from his family. His family moved to Portland when he was 14.

The airman’s burial will be held at 1 p.m. beside the graves of his brother, Alan Davies, and sister-in-law, Betty Davies, who both also served in World War II. Davies will be decorated with eight medals, including a Purple Heart, Hillyer said.

She praised the accounting agency and their work to bring lost soldiers home.

“It gives hope to people who have family members who are MIA or POWs that this agency does exist and that they might help recover their loved ones,” Hillyer said.

Davies’ name was listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Florence American Cemetery in Impruneta, Italy. A rosette will be placed next to his name confirming he’s been accounted for, according to the POW/MIA accounting agency.

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