BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — The remains of a World War II pilot were finally buried with full military honors in his home state of Nebraska after 73 years in foreign soil.
Flight Officer Richard Lane died in combat in 1944. His family believed his remains were buried in a cemetery in the southeast Nebraska town of Filley, and they visited his grave on Memorial Day for seven decades. But the remains buried under Lane’s tombstone were recently discovered to be those of another man.
The Army had mistakenly sent the wrong remains to Nebraska. Lane had been buried in a military cemetery in Belgium in a grave marked “Unknown.”
Lane’s family didn’t learn of the mistake until a family in Idaho discovered the two soldiers’ remains were switched.
“To be a small part of getting a soldier or airman’s remains back where they belong — it gives me chills,” said Patrick Biddy, a veteran and historian of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment who helped return Lane’s remains home to Nebraska.
The remains buried in Lane’s grave are now being examined at a lab at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha. Biddy is awaiting confirmation of the body’s identity, but he believes the remains are of Pfc. Fred Ashley, a 2nd Cavalry reconnaissance scout from Idaho.
Lane and Ashley had no connection when they were alive. But after the war ended, their unidentified remains were brought to Nuremberg, Germany, for reburial on the same day. Their remains were buried side by side as unidentified veterans and were moved multiple times around Europe. Some were eventually mistakenly identified as Lane and sent to Nebraska.
“It was pretty easy to put together, once we got the documents,” Biddy said. “Somebody must have grabbed the wrong cart. We’ll probably never know (how it) happened.”
The Lane family held another funeral Thursday in Beatrice, nearly 70 years after the first one. Lane’s sister, his nephew and a large group of American Legion Riders welcomed his body to its final resting place.
“This is no crying time,” said Lane’s nephew, Wendell Lane. “This is a time for joy.”