Skip to comments.Hero makes it Home: WWII veteran laid to rest 65yrs after plane crash (touching story)
Posted on 04/26/2009 7:50:27 AM PDT by WestTexasWend
Staff Sgt. Jimmie Doyle, whose warplane crashed into the ocean off Palau in 1944, was given full military honors, along with a hero's homecoming, during funeral and graveside services Saturday at Lamesa.
The location of the plane was unknown for 60 years, then found under 70 feet of water in 2004 by the BentProp Project that searches for soldiers missing in action.
The plane and the crewmen still aboard were recovered in 2008, and Doyle's identification was completed earlier this year.
His grandson, U.S. Marine Capt. Casey Doyle, recently escorted Staff Sgt. Doyle's casket from Hawaii to his hometown of Lamesa, and to the First United Methodist Church where he and his wife, Myrle, had attended services and were married in 1940.
His son, Tommy Doyle, hadn't reached his second birthday when his father's plane went down from anti-aircraft fire over the Koror Island target area, a part of Palau.
Staff Sgt. Doyle, assistant engineer on the Army Air Forces B-24 bomber, had been moved from tail gunner to a nose-turret gunner position by the time the plane began its final mission on Sept. 1, 1944. When ground fire struck the left wing, the plane began tumbling on its descent to the ocean.
Tommy never knew his father, of course, but in recent years came to know much about what he was like through letters that his mother, Myrle, had kept - and had kept privately - before she passed away in 1992.
He mentioned the letters in 2005. "There was a lot of indication of how much he loved her - in every letter."
In the letters home, there was often the mention of his son. He might even have envisioned him growing up to play football for Texas Tech, and later to become a coach, as he did.
But he could never have known that one day his grandson, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and a two-tour veteran of a then unimaginable war, would one day guard his passage home.
In the last letter home, on the evening before the final mission, Staff Sgt. Doyle again spoke of home and his love for his wife, as he always did:
"Just a few lines, for you know I love you too much to sleep without saying goodnight," he wrote.
"Sweet, my mind is nearly a blank tonight, for I am all taken up with thoughts of you and home. Maybe it won't be too long until the day when I will be home, and we will be together again ... Gee, what a glimpse of you would be worth!
"Sweet Darling, tomorrow is a busy day, and I have to get up early ... you know I love you with all my heart and will for always.
His granddaughter, Brandi Doyle, said on Saturday, "I am touched by the outpouring of support and emotion from the people ... strangers have called and told how much this story has touched them, and I know how it touches our family."
In the church services, an honor guard brought the flag-draped casket into the sanctuary after the family had been seated. Army Chaplain Col. Michael Lembke spoke of the event as both a homecoming and a celebration of life and service.
Along a funeral procession route to Lamesa Memorial Park, a group of people had gathered on a sidewalk to hold up American flags. Then, a little farther on, children could be seen waving flags and smiling. Two women at one location held a large flag between them, and a gathering at a Disabled Veterans facility had an assortment of flags.
For most of a mile, group after group were waving flags. Children in the groups held flags high and waved to the cars going by. The show of patriotism and honor for a fallen veteran would have been fitting for a general.
While making the arrangements for services, Tommy and his wife, Nancy, had faced a concern about how Jimmie's burial could be done in proximity to Myrle's gravesite. There was no space left nearby.
But a kind of walkway leading to a garden area began beside the existing plot, and cemetery officials simply took a portion from that for the new site.
The First United Methodist Church of Lamesa was a constant in the lives of the couple. It's where they attended church, where they were baptized, where they were married, and where their funeral services were held.
In accordance with the Christian faith they shared, they are in life now. And that which was their earthly dwelling for a time is sleeping, side by side, near a garden walkway, a little way southwest of Lamesa.
After 65 years, Staff Sgt. Doyle is home.
Several pics at the link...sorry, I can’t get them to post.
What a touching story — thanks for that. Bookmarked.
What a great story,I printed it out to send
to a uncle that fought in that area
Thank you for posting that. I have a great uncle who went down in the S. Pacific but has never been found. These stories give me hope that one day he will be.
I read a story by a modern writer about climbing in and out of a B-24 nose turret. He said it was a practical impossibility to bail out of one. The turret had to be in a certai position and i dont think the chute fit it with you. You had to move the turret to a certain position and open a door. If you did that, you had to retrieve and clip on you parachute. Then you had to make your way back to the bomb bay. B-24 was terrible to try to bail out from.
You are correct that most bomber crew guys had to clip on their chutes before bailing out. Hard to do that with the plane spinning out of control. Thats why we lost so many multi-engine crew members.
I have a medical-forensic question.
How did skeletal remains, or identifiable DNA, survive for 65 years in tropical sea water?
I’ve watched numerous specials on the recovery of WW2 ships, and, like the Titanic, every trace of human remains has disappeared.
I believe the story, but more details would be welcome.
One survivor at the local Senior Center said it was like being in those cars at the carnival that are whipped around, pinning you to the seat by centrifugal force.
The book "Flying Fortress" by Jablonski has a terrible picture, taken from another plane in the formation, of a B-17 that just had it's nose blown off by ack ack - plane was gone from the pilots' position forward. The description said the plane hung like that for a second and then plummeted to earth, with "no chutes seen". What got me was the phrase "with the front gone, the interior was turned into a 200 mph wind tunnel." The crew never had a chance.