FORT JACKSON, SC (WIS) - The remains of a World War II veteran who died more than 70 years ago have found their final resting place in Fort Jackson National Cemetery.
Lt. William Harth Jr., of Columbia, was 22 years old in the summer of 1943 when he was assigned to the 329th Bombardment Squadron, 93rd Bombardment Group, which was known as "The Traveling Circus."
On August 1 of that year, he served on a B-24D aircraft while participating in a historic mission, codenamed Operation Tidal Wave. The operation was the first large-scale, low-altitude attack by the U.S. on Romania.
However, confusion in navigation during the attack caused some planes to miss their turn, where they encountered German anti-aircraft fire. The B-24D that Harth was traveling in crashed and he was killed.
"The amount of bravery that day when they took off from Libya is astounding," Alan Landers, a member of the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing, said. "They knew how low they were going to fly, they knew they were going to meet those defenses and they knew they were going to be blowing up petroleum. It's truly incredible."
Several days after the bombing raid, Romanian civilians and officials recovered the remains of the deceased Americans and interred them in the Hero Section of the Bolovan Cemetery. In 1946 and 1947, Harth's remains were reinterred into an American cemetery in Belgium. The American Graves Registration Command was able to identify 145 of the Soldiers killed in the operation, but Harth's remains were listed as non-recoverable.
However, after extensive DNA analysis and testing, Harth's remains were positively identified thanks to DNA provided by his niece in addition to dental records.
"We didn't know a whole lot about my uncle because it was devastating to my grandparents and my mother," Bonnie Hipkins, Harth's niece, said. "So learning all of this stuff about him is invaluable."
Fort Jackson held a ceremony for the family of Lt. Harth on Friday. His family said they can now rest easy knowing Harth is home.
"We're really emotional for everything that Fort Jackson has done, everything the Army has done to get him home and all of these organizations who have come out to provide full honors for my uncle," Hipkins said.