The United States last month, with the help of volunteer Italian archeologists and DNA testing, identified the remains of a Tuskegee Airman whose plane crashed in WWII.
Fred L. Brewer, 23, was escorting B-24 bombers in his P-51 fighter plane, called Travelin’ Lite, from an American base in Italy to Regensburg, Germany when overcast weather caused Brewer to crash his plane in a remote location near the Austrian border with Italy on October 29, 1944, according to reporting by The Washington Post.
Brewer was from North Carolina and had graduated from Shaw University in Raleigh. His father was a hotel bellman.
“I remember how devastating it was when they notified my family, my aunt and uncle, that he was missing,” Brewer’s cousin, Robena Brewer, told The Washington Post. “It just left a void within our family. My aunt, who was his mother, Janie, she never, ever recovered from that.”
Fred Brewer was one of 400 Alabama-trained Tuskegee Airmen, African American pilots who fought together in WWII. Brewer’s remains are the second missing remains of an airman to be identified. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 25 remain missing.
Brewer’s plane crashed in Moggio Udinese in Italy, where local officials found him and buried him, military records showed, according to The Washington Post. His body was moved to an American cemetery in Mirandola, Italy, in 1946, and he was given a wooden grave marker. Two years later, his remains were moved again to Florence, Italy.
American defense researchers began investigating the crash at Moggio Udinese, in 2011, after seeing reports of a fallen airplane in that area on a website run by volunteer Italian archeologists, according to The Washington Post. The site described how parts of the plane had been used to create a crucifix memorial for the pilots. Researchers found records identifying the plane and pilot and later collected DNA samples from Brewer’s family to confirm his remains.
On June 21, 2022, Brewer’s remains were disinterred and analyzed. His DNA was matched with that of a cousin in August.
“It is bittersweet,” said his cousin, Robena Brewer Harrison to The Washington Post. “A long time coming. Did I ever think that I or Brenda . . . would ever actually witness this day? [It] is beyond human comprehension.”
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