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In this photo taken on Aug. 29, 2014, Mary Lou Stang, left, of Sartell, Minn., and her sister Margaret Thomas, of St. Cloud, Minn, pose for a photo with a portrait of their late brother Jerome Gross in St. Cloud.

Jason Wachter, Associated Press - Ap

St. Cloud family going to site of WWII plane crash

  • Associated Press
  • September 3, 2014 - 9:33 PM

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Members of a St. Cloud family are traveling to France for a ceremony honoring a relative and two crew members who died when their plane was shot down during World War II.

Margaret Thomas and other family members will visit the site of the crash in Saint-Cyr-la-Rosiere this week, the St. Cloud Times reported (http://on.sctimes.com/1lHOisb ). It will be the first time Thomas sees the farm in northern France where her older brother, Jerome Gross, died 70 years ago.

Gross joined the U.S. Air Force at the height of WWII and eventually rose to the rank of first lieutenant. He earned several commendations for skillful piloting of B-26 Marauder bombers.

On Aug. 9, 1944, Gross was hit by heavy fire while piloting a plane bound for England. A crew member tried to fly the plane back to Allied territory after Gross suffered a serious chest wound, but the plane crashed and caught fire. Half of the plane's crew died, including Gross, and three others were captured by the Germans. They were later rescued by the French Underground.

A monument is being erected by a local French organization to honor the aviators' wartime sacrifice. The Lacey-Davis Foundation, a California-based group that works with European organizations to honor fallen WWII soldiers, arranged the trip so Gross' family could attend.

"You know, it's been what, (72) years," Thomas said. "And of course, you never get over a death of your family member. It's kind of scary, and yet it's really neat what they're doing."

The foundation teams up with other organizations to locate old crash sites, recover artifacts and build monuments. Robert Stuard, president of the Lacey-Davis Foundation, said about 45 families have attended dedications of monuments throughout the years.

"When we get to see families go over, it delights all of us," Stuard said. "It's like, to me, a final closing. There's always reservations in one's mind about their loved one. So this helps."

© 2014 Star Tribune