The remains of a Philadelphia bomber pilot shot down in World War II have been identified and will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.
Army Air Force First Lt. William J. Sarsfield was the copilot of a B-17E Flying Fortress nicknamed "Naughty but Nice," with a racy image of a woman on the nose of the plane, when it was shot down during a bombing mission over a Japanese airfield in what is now Papua New Guinea on June 26, 1943.
The only survivor among the 10-member crew was Second Lt. Jose L. Holguin, who was held as a Japanese prisoner of war until September 1945.
In 1949, local residents led U.S. military personnel to the crash site on New Britain Island. The remains retrieved at the time could not be identified, and they were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
In 1982 and 1983, Holguin, who had retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel and had become a school administrator in Los Angeles, led missions to locate the crash site. The nose art with the Betty Grable-esque woman was found and is now displayed in a war museum in Papua New Guinea.
Holguin campaigned to have the remains exhumed from Hawaii and reexamined. In 1985, the remains of five crewmen were identified and returned to their families. Holguin died in 1994.
In 2001, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command excavated the crash site and found more remains and crew-related equipment.
Eventually, dental records and DNA matches identified the remaining four airmen: Sarsfield; Second Lt. Charles E. Trimingham, the mission pilot, of California; Technical Sgt. Robert L. Christopherson of Minnesota; and Technical Sgt. Leonard A. Gionet of Massachusetts.
They will be buried as a group Wednesday in a single casket at Arlington, the Defense Department said.
The crewmen previously identified were Second Lt. Herman H. Knott, Second Lt. Francis G. Peattie, Staff Sgt. Henry Garcia, Staff Sgt. Robert E. Griebel, and Staff Sgt. Pace P. Payne.
Sarsfield, then 26, had been married for 17 days when he shipped off in December 1942, according to a newspaper account at the time. He graduated from West Philadelphia High School and Drexel Institute of Technology.
His wife, Constance E., lived in the 600 block of East Tioga Street and was employed tracing blueprints for motor bearings.
Sarsfield was awarded the Silver Star in 1943 for another bombing mission in which, he wrote to his wife, he encountered "some trouble, when the Fortress made a forced water landing."