On July 10, 1943, Pittsburgh native and Army Air Force 2nd Lt. Gilbert Myers was flying a bombing mission over Sicily with crewmates from the 310th Bombardment Group, part of the 381st Bombardment Squadron during World War II.
Myers’ B-25 Mitchell was struck by anti-aircraft fire and went down near Sciacca, Sicily.
On Oct. 2, a little more than eight decades later, Myers’ remains were positively identified. He will be returned to the U.S. for a funeral just before Veterans Day, thanks to the dedication of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, part of the U.S. Defense Department.
“He is the first member of his crew we’ve identified,” said DPAA Deputy Lab Director Carrie Ann Brown, part of the group that worked to identify Myers from remains interred at a municipal cemetery in Sicily. “A lot of World War II cases involve missing crew members. Lt. Myers was killed along with five crewmates.”
In 1944, researchers from the American Graves Registration Service initially discovered that Sciacca residents had found the body of a pilot at the B-25 crash site. In 1947, investigators conducted search and recovery operations near Sciacca but were unable to find anything linking back to Myers. Modern identification methods such as DNA matching were not available at the time.
In 2021 and 2022, DPAA researchers returned to Sciacca, where they were able to recover additional pieces of wreckage along with human remains, which were sent to the DPAA’s lab to be examined and identified.
“When we know we’re going out to a site, we work with the families to collect DNA samples so we can hopefully make that match,” Brown said. “In this case, we had those samples on file.”
All of it is welcome news to Jean Corey of St. Petersburg, Fla. She is the wife of Myers’ nephew, Jack Corey, who was only a year-and-a-half old when his uncle’s plane was shot down.
“Gilbert was the oldest of six children, and he was born in Pittsburgh on Feb. 10, 1916,” Corey said. “His father worked in the steel mills, and when the Depression hit, he and his brother, Paul, both quit school to help support the family.”
Part of the family relocated to St. Petersburg, and Myers moved there briefly before registering for military service in December 1941, just five days before the Pearl Harbor attacks.
“He flew missions out of Tunisia right up until the fatal mission during Operation Husky in July 1943,” Corey said.
Myers’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Nettuno, Italy, along with others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Myers’ remains will come home to St. Petersburg for a funeral on Saturday.
Brown said the work DPAA does can be very satisfying, especially in cases like this.
“I don’t think there’s anything more fulfilling that we could do with the eight years of education we spend learning about bones, human identification and the different processes,” she said.
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