TIRANA, Albania — Sgt. John Thompson, a British World War II special operation pilot, was considered missing in action for more than 70 years. Not anymore.
On Monday, his 92-year-old sister Dorothy Webster received his ring from a family in Albania together with a box of debris from his Halifax bomber.
The plane had crashed in the eastern European country on Oct. 29, 1944 whilst transporting assistance to local anti-Nazi fighters, and in 1960 late Jaho Cala found Thompson's finger with the ring at the Sinoi Mountain, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the Albanian capital Tirana. He kept the ring and hid it at his home, afraid to show it to the then-communist authorities.
Cala asked his son Xhemil to look for the family of the owner and after he died, Xhemil contacted the embassies of the U.S. and Britain — the two countries that helped liberate Albania from the Nazis a month after Thompson's death.
After three months, the British embassy confirmed the ring was Thompson's and told his family.
Dorothy, a year younger than her brother, was accompanied by four of his nephews and other family members at a ceremony at the Albanian Defense Ministry.
"She was over the moon when they told us, ringing everybody," Dorothy's son Brian told The Associated Press. "Our grandfather and grandmother never locked the house in Matlock, Derbyshire county (in the U.K.), waiting for their missed son."
British authorities never told them anything about their uncle "because he was part of a secret operation in Albania," according to Philip Thompson, one of the nephews.
"Once we even thought his plane had crashed in Poland," Brian said.