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Memorial Day 2023 brings some local soldiers home for the last time

Flags mark the graves of service members at Mound City National Cemetery near Mound City, Illinois
Jennifer Fuller
WSIU Public Broadcasting
Flags mark the graves of service members at Mound City National Cemetery near Mound City, Illinois

The remains of two southern Illinois airmen, killed in WWII, will be laid to rest this week

Two World War Two veterans from southern Illinois will be laid to rest this week - decades after they gave their lives in combat overseas.

Eighty years ago, Operation Tidal Wave was targeting oil fields in Romania, in an attempt to starve the Nazis of fuel. It was the first large scale low-altitude attack by U.S. heavy bombers - including 177 B-24 Liberators.

Two southern Illinois natives - 32-year old Tech Sergeant Harold Kretzer of Odin and 24-year old Tech Sergeant James Howie of Chester - were among those serving on the B-24's, and lost on August first, 1943. Neither of the two could be identified, they were listed as missing in action, and buried among other unknown soldiers in Belgium and Italy.

Last year, DNA and anthropological evidence identified both men, and their remains will be re-interred this week in Illinois. Kretzer will be buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield on Friday, and Howie in Chester on Saturday.

More than 200 airmen were lost in Operation Tidal Wave, and nearly 100 listed as unknown. The U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reports half of those unknown service members have now been identified, and the work to identify more continues.

Jennifer Fuller joined Capitol News Illinois in July 2023 as the organization’s broadcast director. She will oversee the launch and operations of CNI’s new broadcast division.

Contact Jennifer Fuller at jfuller@capitolnewsillinois.com
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