A 48-year odyssey ended Saturday on a tree-covered knoll with full military honors for the co-pilot of a B-17 shot down over New Guinea during World War II.
First Lt. Winslow G. Gardner had flown 40 missions and was about ready to come home in June 1943. Instead, the 22-year-old Weber State College graduate volunteered for an armed reconnaissance mission.Japanese fighters found the plane and shot it down on June 1, 1943. Two of the crew's 10 members parachuted to safety before the plane exploded, and a third in the tail section survived the crash.
Only one, Paul J. Cassio Jr. of Maryland, was alive when the island was liberated.
Wreckage of the plane was not found until 1987, said Maj. Alfonso Garcia, casualty assistance officer at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City.
That year, a forest survey company discovered a B-17 cockpit in the jungles of New Britain. An Army search team photographed the area in 1988, and in February 1990 remains taken from the cockpit were sent to Washington, D.C., where they were identified.
Gardner's remains were buried Saturday in Hyrum following a memorial service attended by about 200.
His mother, Ella Mae Wind, clutched the American flag that had covered the casket. "I feel that now my son has come home for his final rest," she said.
Earlier, Wind sat quietly as an honor guard from the 96th Army Reserve Command carried the flag-draped casket to the grave. A firing detail shot a 21-gun salute, and a bugler played taps while the flag was folded for presentation "to Ella Mae Wind on behalf of a grateful nation."
Wind, speaking through tears, said she felt "gratitude for this great nation and for the service my dear son rendered for freedom."
Gardner realized he might not survive the war and, in letters home, told his mother and grandmother his dream was to serve a mission for the LDS Church. If he didn't come back, they were to use his savings to help send others.
The savings helped send two young men on missions, an act that in 1946 prompted LDS Church President David O. McKay to call Gardner "a hero," speakers at the memorial service said.