Two best-friend aviators from Washington State, one who survived World War II, and one who did not, are now buried side by side — a sad reunion made possible after the one vet’s bones were discovered in Germany, embedded in the roots of a tree.
For more than 70 years, a tree had grown up around the remains of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Gray, protecting his bones from being scattered and lost after his single-seat aircraft crashed in the woods of Lindau.
“It grew over his remains and really protected and marked the spot,” Gray’s nephew, Doug Louvier, told the Seattle Fox affiliate.
Gray had enlisted together with his childhood friend from Washington state’s Rainier Valley, Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Jim Louvier.
The two young men made a promise as they shipped out together, family members told the TV station.
Should one of them die, the other would take care of his family back home.
“They loved each other as brothers and friends,” Doug Louvier said.
Then, on April 16, 1945, Gray crashed after his plane took enemy fire during a dive-bombing mission.
He was just 21 years old.
Family members assumed, after a while, that his last tangible remnant would be the more than 100 letters he wrote home during the war — the final one boasting he’d done 68 missions.
Meanwhile, Louvier, the survivor, returned home to keep the men’s promise.
Louvier married Gray’s sister.
“I know he loved her dearly and committed to her 64 years before he died,” their son, Jan Bradshaw, told the station.
Louvier would die at age 89, in 2010, but the family could not decide where his ashes would be buried.
Then, last year, US Army crews happened to be in Germany in the area near where Gray had crashed, and a pair of locals to led them to where they had seen the plane go down.
It took 15 days of excavating before they found the well-protected bones.
DNA from the bones turned out to be a match to his two sisters.
The war hero was transported back home on Wednesday, and on Friday, the Louvier’s ashes and Gray’s bones were buried with military honors, side by side in Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, WA.
“We couldn’t decide what to do” with Louvier’s ashes for all those years, Bradshaw noted.
“And now we know why.”
Joked Louvier’s son, “I think they are having a cold drink up there, smacking their glasses together and saying we are finally back together.”
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