After nearly eight decades, a military hero is finally welcomed home.
The remains of 1st Lt. Joseph E. Finneran arrived in Needham, Massachusetts Friday night, welcomed by family, service members, veterans and strangers. The U.S. Army Air Corps veteran was killed when his plane was shot down in World War II.
Finneran was born in Needham and enlisted just 11 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Wicked Local reports.
He flew 25 missions as a bombardier on a B-24 when he was stationed in Benghazi, Libya.
Finneran and his crew mates were killed on Aug. 1, 1943, during Operation Tidal Wave over Ploiesti, Romania. For his heroism, Finneran was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
Of the Americans killed there, only 27 could be identified, not including Finneran.
The unidentified remains were buried as Unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania, according to a press release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
After the war, soldiers from the American Graves Registration Command began looking for fallen soldiers.
They recovered all the remains of Americans from the Bolovian cemetery and reinterred them at the American Military Cemetery in Belgium.
According to WBZ, Finneran’s family began the DNA testing process more than ten years ago. They’d almost given up trying to identify him.
In 2017, the DPAA began exhuming still unidentified soldiers believed to have participated in Operation Tidal Wave.
A break would come over the summer, when DNA testing would finally positively identify Finneran, 76 years after he died.
His family said they wanted to hold his funeral services close to Veteran’s Day, not only honoring their loved one, but others who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“This is the most amazing thing that I’ve ever been a part of in my life,” Finneran’s nephew, William Glennon told WBZ.
Finneran will be buried on Nov. 9 in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.
There are currently still 72,652 service members still unaccounted for. Officials believe approximately 30,000 of them can still be identified. For more information, head to the DPAA’s website.