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Tuskegee Airman's Remains Might Have Been Found More Than 70 Years Later

April 09, 2018 - 6:12 pm
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EAST ORANGE, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- The remains of a Tuskegee Airman who went missing more than 70 years ago might have been found.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, a black fighter pilot who had trained at The Tuskegee Army Flying School, was believed to have been gone down over Italy on Dec. 23, 1944. His wife wrote a letter to the War Department months later saying she had heard nothing, and finally got a letter back saying her husband was missing in action, the Post reported.

Multiple search teams had given up in finding Dickson, Washington Post reporter Michael E. Ruane told WCBS 880’s Kevin Rincon and Steve Scott on Monday.

“He was flying a P-51 Mustang on an escort mission from southern Italy to Prague, Czechoslovakia, which was in the hands of the Nazis at the time. En route, he developed engine trouble, turned back with his two wingmen, and tried to bail out of his fighter, and he was never seen again. His wingmen never saw a parachute or an explosion or a pile of smoke, and they circled, looked for him, gave up. After the war, the Army searched for the crash site, couldn’t find it, and gave up,” he said.

But everything changed last summer.

“Last summer, some archaeologists checking a site in Austria found human remains and pieces of a P-51, and they are now at the Pentagon’s DNA lab in Dover, Delaware, where DNA has been extracted, and they hope that it might be his,” Ruane said.

Ruane said Dickson’s daughter, Marla Andrews, still lives in East Orange, New Jersey and got a call from the Pentagon back in August that they were investigating a site where they thought her father had crashed.

Ruane said the discovery will indeed bring closure to Andrews if the remains do turn out to be Dickson’s.

“It would be huge. She never knew her father. Her house is kind of decorated with pictures of him. She was about 2 1/2 when she disappeared, and she would love to have him buried in Arlington Cemetery if this proves to be him,” he said.

The Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s DNA operations branch has extracted DNA from a bone at the crash site, and experts are amplifying and sequencing it, the Post reported.

Andrews and her family recently provided cheek swabs so their DNA can be compared with the remains that were recently discovered, the Post reported.