WWII Pilot 2nd Lt. William J. McGowan laid to rest at Normandy American Cemetery
ARLINGTON, Va. (July 9, 2022) – U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William J. McGowan was laid to rest at Normandy American Cemetery (NOAC) today, nearly 80 years after he was killed during operations in France during World War II (WWII).
McGowan, from Benson, Minn., was killed on June 6, 1944, when the P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft he was piloting crashed while on a mission near the city of Moon-sur-Elle, France. The 23-year-old was a member of the 391st Fighter Squadron, 366th Fighter Group, 9th U.S. Air Force.
While McGowan’s crash site was initially investigated in 1947, his remains were declared non-recoverable. The site was resurveyed in 2010 by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and excavated in 2018. McGowan was officially accounted for by DPAA scientists May 13, 2019.
“It is our mission to care for those individuals who gave their lives in service to our nation, no matter how many years have passed since they made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Scott Desjardins, Normandy American Cemetery superintendent. “It is our solemn honor to provide Lt. McGowan a final resting place among those he served beside.”
McGowan was laid to rest with military honors with family, friends and local officials in attendance. He was interred approximately 350 miles away from his uncle and namesake, who died during World War I and is buried at the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.
“When we were asked where we wanted the final resting place of our uncle to be, we did not hesitate,” said Paul Stouffer, McGowan’s nephew on behalf of the family present. “We feel [Lt. McGowan’s parents and siblings] would be comforted knowing that their son and brother is buried here…Lt. McGowan will be laid to rest alongside 9,386 brothers and sisters who also gave the ultimate sacrifice, while in uniform, in service to their country. Thank you to the American Battle Monuments Commission for allowing one more amazing young man to join these other extraordinary young men and women at this beautiful memorial. You are not forgotten”.
Prior to his identification and burial, McGowan’s name was recorded on the Walls of the Missing at NOAC, which features the inscribed names of approximately 1,600 individuals missing from WWII. A rosette was placed next to his name after the burial ceremony to indicate he has now been accounted for.
Burials at NOAC are infrequent since the cemetery was dedicated and declared closed to burials in 1956. Per ABMC authorities, only those who are later recovered and identified can be buried at an ABMC cemetery at the family’s request.
“It is our solemn honor to provide Lt. McGowan a final resting place among those he served beside,” said Desjardins. “We are charged with preserving and sharing Lt. McGowan’s story and the stories of all the fallen or missing who are buried or memorialized within our sites. It is a solemn privilege to be able to honor his service, achievement and sacrifice, as well as all those who have given so much in the name of freedom.”