Army Air Force pilot from Pennsylvania killed during WWII accounted for, authorities say

WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES - JANUARY 15: The American flag (top) and National League of Families POW/MIA flag (bottom) wave in the air in Washington D.C., United States on January 15, 2023. (Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

An Army Air Force pilot from Pennsylvania killed during World War II has been accounted for almost eight decades later, military authorities said.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said last week that 2nd Lt. James Litherland, 25, of South Williamsport was accounted for in March.

In February 1944, Litherland was co-piloting a B-17F Flying Fortress that was struck by anti-aircraft fire after a bombing raid on a German V-2 rocket site in Bois-Coquerel, France. Three airmen parachuted to safety but Litherland and six other crew members were still on board when the plane crashed near Le Translay, France, authorities said.

Six sets of remains were recovered near the crash site but only five were identified. In 2018, more material was recovered from the crash site and the unknown remains were exhumed from a cemetery in France. Dental and anthropological analysis and DNA evidence was used to identify the remains as those of Litherland, officials said.

Litherland's daughter, Suzanne Walker, called the efforts to identify his remains "amazing," reported. Born on the day of the crash — "I imagine the grief of my mother" — Walker said she learned the recovery team used Google maps to locate the crash site and did a hand dig to find the remains, which included one of his dog tags she now has.

"That was the biggest surprise," she said. "I never expected it."

Walker said she has little memorabilia about her father and hopes someone comes forward with pictures or other items. Through her research, she has learned he was an outdoorsman and with friends built a toboggan slide on the side of the mountain near their home.

She thinks about "what he may have been." He would now be a great-grandfather.

Litherland will be laid to rest in Williamsport. Walker said she had the opportunity to have her father buried in France but "wanted him to be with his family." His father and grandfather are buried in Wildwood Cemetery, where there is a headstone for him, she said.

Literland's name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupré, Belgium, along with others still missing from WWII. Military authorities say a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he has been accounted for.