I couldn't quiet figure out why my Mom was calling me on that day in 1989 - our conversation went something like this:
Me: - Hello – oh hi Mom, what are you doing?”
Mom – You're never going to
Me - ?????????
Mom – I still can't believe it!
Me - ???????
Mom – Are you sitting down yet?
Me - (now fearing
something terrible has happened) Just tell me whats wrong.......
Mom – We
just got a call from your Uncle Ray
Me - ??????????
Mom – We don't know
all the details yet, but, he just got a call from the Army -
They have found
Willis' plane and will be bringing him home......
Me – What? You've got to
The phone lines were hot that day with the news traveling from state to state letting everyone know that Willis' plane had been found. It was a shock, but, plans were made quickly to meet in Nebraska for his return.
In 1986 a surveyor, walking through the jungle on the island of New Britain near the village of Ulagunan, unexpectedly discovered the wreckage of a P38-F Lightning. For 43 years the plane and its contents had been undisturbed. This discovery would put an end to the mystery of what happened to F/O Willis F. Evers on November 2, 1943. It took another 3 years before the Army would notify our family of the discovery.
So on September 15, 1989 we gathered at “home” - brothers, sister, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends to welcome him home at last. Willis was laid to rest next to his parents John and Lena Evers at St. Peters Cemetery, Hildreth, Nebraska. Fifteen members from the 1st Infantry, Bravo Battery from Ft. Leavenworth, provided military pallbearers and the gunner group for the 21 gun salute. Fourteen Hildreth Veterans of Foreign Wars provided an honor guard. A flyover by F-4 Phantom jets flew over the ceremony tipping their wings as a final salute to a young WWII Pilot who had finally come home.
It was an unusual reunion to say the least. For those that knew Willis it brought back a variety of memories. From my aunties I learned how he would give them rides on his motorcycle, they were just young girls, but oh how they loved that. In my fathers eyes I could see the pain that still lingered there and how time had not erased the memory of that long ago day in 1943 when he learned his brother was MIA. But, I could also sense his relief knowing what happened to him.
We welcomed Uncle Willis home and hope he can now rest in peace in the arms of God and his parents in heaven..........
May he forever soar with the eagles
Thank you to the Nebraska TV stations for sharing the film footage!