Missing in action for 72 years, WWII airman returns home to Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. - An airman missing from World War II has finally returned home to his family more than 72 years after his plane crashed for burial and full military honors. 

Army Air Forces 1st Lt. George W. Betchley went missing on March 22, 1945, according to the military's Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency. 

Betchley was a member of the 429th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, serving as a navigator on a B-17G Flying Fortress, carrying a crew of ten on a bombing mission targeting the Ruhland oil refinery near Schwarzheide, Germany.

The aircraft crashed in southwest Poland after two of its engines and the left wing were reportedly damaged by German anti-aircraft fire and German fighters.

The pilot and several crew members parachuted out, but only the pilot and co-pilot survived. The other eight crew members were not recovered following the crash.

Betchley was declared missing in action as of March 22, 1945, but his status was later amended to killed in action.

Betchley was identified in June, 2017.

On Wednesday, more than 72 years after his plane crashed, he was flown into Tampa International Airport so that he could be taken home by his family for proper burial. 

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