EFFINGHAM, Ill. — A lifelong mystery involving a World War II pilot, who disappeared on a training mission in England, has been solved.
The remains of Charles “Butch” Moritz, who was 21 at the time of his death, were found near Toft Newton, Lincolnshire.
The remnants of his P-51C Mustang bomber escort were buried 18 feet in the ground from the impact of a mid-air collision on June 7, 1944, just hours after the launch of the Normandy Invasion.
The recollection of the crash is something that gives chills to Pamela Landers of Nisswa, Minn., Moritz’s niece and oldest living relative. She was only a year old when her uncle died, so all she heard were stories.
She got a call last fall from the Department of Defense saying the government may have discovered his remains.
“Oh my,” Landers said in response to how she reacted to the call. “I was just amazed that they could find him after all these years ... 68 years.”
The surprises behind the story don’t seem to stop. Not only was Moritz discovered, he was discovered by a private group of vintage aircraft enthusiasts, called the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group. It had been searching for the remains of the plane that collided with Moritz’s aircraft. Instead, they found Moritz’s bomber.
The information was turned over to authorities in the U.S. and the military recovered human remains and military identification tags bearing Moritz’s name from the site, according to a press release from the Department of Defense.
A second excavation recovered additional remains and material evidence, including a bracelet with the inscription “Butch Moritz” and a wallet that contained several cards bearing Moritz’s name, the release stated.
Those items were sent to Landers, and her hands quivered as she opened the package that would finally solve her family’s long mystery.