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Yonkers WWII Veteran Finally Comes Home
Yonkers Rising - 10/21/2017
When World War II ended, 1st Lt. George Betchley of Yonkers was included among the roster of more than 83,000 U.S. service members listed as "missing in action." However, Betchley will be laid to rest later this week in Florida, and will be remembered as an American hero who gave his life for his country.
On March 22, 1945, Betchley, age 20, was a member of the 429th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, serving as a navigator on a B-17G Flying Fortress, carrying a crew of 10 on a bombing mission targeting the Ruhland oil refinery near Schwarzheide, Germany. The aircraft crashed in southwest Poland after two of its engines and the left wing were reportedly damaged by German anti-aircraft fire, and German fighters. The pilot and several crewmembers parachuted out, but only the pilot and co-pilot survived. The other eight crewmembers were not recovered following the crash.
Betchley was declared "missing in action" as of March 22, 1945, but his status was later amended to "killed in action."
In 1948, the American Graves Registration Command recovered a set of remains from the cemetery at Janówek that they were not able to identify, and interred them at the United States Military Cemetery Neuville-en-Condroz, in Belgium, where they laid for nearly 70 years.
In April 1948, an AGRC team investigated a crash site associated with Betchley's aircraft. Local authorities took the team to the crash site where equipment was found in the wreckage, which had serial numbers correlating with weapons used on the B-17G Flying Fortress.
After a thorough historical and scientific analysis, it was determined that X-7547 could likely be identified. After receiving approval, on July 7, 2016, Unknown X-7547 was disinterred from Neuville and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.
To identify Betchley's remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome (Y-STR) DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as dental and anthropological analysis ? which matched his records, and historical evidence.
In 2016, unbeknownst to Betchley's family and the rest of the world, he became part of a viral video phenomenon. On July 7, 2016, after thorough historical and scientific analysis, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency disinterred the unknown remains from the Neuville cemetery and sent the remains to their laboratory in Hawaii for analysis.
While remains are frequently returned to the United States for analysis, Diane Hollifield Cupp filmed not only the remains of the still-unknown service member's return to the mainland, but also the Iowa Ambassadors of Music Choir singing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" for the airman.
Cupp, who was returning from Germany, had spent the previous two weeks touring concentration camps, American cemeteries, and other World War II monuments, putting the loss of these heroes fresh in her mind. She wasn't supposed to be on that flight, she said, but a twist of fate led them to flying home later than scheduled.
"We landed in Atlanta to change planes, and they made an announcement over the intercom that the remains of a World War II hero were on board," said Cupp. "As this was happening, all these teenagers started singing. I had no idea it would go viral."
This summer, his name made news as he was identified as the serviceman who had been honored just a year earlier by the Iowa choir and Cupp, of Johnson City, Tenn.
"I was contacted by his niece who lives in New York," said Cupp. "It melted my heart." Cupp, who was invited to attend Betchley's funeral in Clearwater, Fla., spoke through tears this weekend. "I am very honored and I'm so proud of our fallen hero and the sacrifices he made to ensure our freedom," she said.
To watch the video, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMrpGL0QjBk.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72, 990 service members still unaccounted for from World War II; approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recover-able. For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil.