WINSTED, Conn. — More than a dozen relatives of a U.S. service member killed during World War II are traveling next week to Arlington National Cemetery for his funeral, seven decades after his plane was shot down over Europe.
The remains of Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. John H. Canty, recovered from the crash site in France, were identified in December by scientists using DNA analysis.
"Uncle John always was the one who was special," said Wayne Brazeau, Jr., Canty's great-nephew.
Brazeau, 55, remembers hearing stories about his great uncle on visits to his grandmother's home in Winsted, Connecticut. A wall of the house of his grandmother — Canty's sister— displayed his photo, his medals and a dollar bill that he signed before setting out on his final mission.
Canty, who grew up in Winsted, was 22 when he was killed June 22, 1944.
He was aboard a B-26 Maurader that left England for a nighttime bombing mission against targets in France when it was shot down, killing all eight crew members. U.S. forces could not carry out a thorough search of the site at the time because it was in German-controlled territory.
The crash site between Baron-sur-Odon and Gavrus was excavated last spring by a recovery team from the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which located human remains as well as personal effects.
Brazeau, a military veteran now living in Illinois, said he served three tours in Germany and would have searched himself if he'd known the location of the crash site.
"I was just astonished when they said where his plane went down," he said.
Brazeau's father, Wayne Brazeau, of Moultrie, Georgia, was 5 when Canty's plane went down. At 78, he said he had only a vague recollection of seeing his uncle in uniform and wondered occasionally whether his remains might be recovered. When the military asked for a DNA sample, he said he knew there might be news.
A burial with full military honors is planned for Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.