WWII hero’s remains brought home over 75 years after his death


“My Uncle Bill’s last letter to his dad, before he died — in it, it’s hard to imagine, he said ‘pray that I be brave, and I don’t mind if I die a boy,’ — and he was brave and he did die as a boy,” said Bob Moore.

Saturday, 75 years after his death, that brave boy was finally brought home.

In 1941, during the thick of world war two, Peter Atkinson, an American pilot from the Eastern Panhandle was training to fight in the Japanese sky when he was killed in a crash during a training run in Burma.

His body was never identified, until Lieutenant Colonel Retired Tilley stepped in.

“She (Peter Atkinson’s sister) was just speechless that someone wanted to solve what happened to her brother, she was tearful almost choked up,” said  Lt. Col. retired E. Tilley

This hero is home, and family members like his sister Mary Margaret Hughes finally have closure

Reactions like Hughes are what Lt. Col. Retired Tilley says makes the tedious process of identifying remains worthwhile.

Thanks to advancements in forensic testing and a whole lot of tenacity, Peter Atkinson was given a proper burial next to his brothers who also fought in WWII on Saturday in Rosedale cemetery in Martinsburg, Wv. 

“It is a closure, something peaceful about bringing him home again,” said Moore.  

For family members in attendance physically and in spirit, like Atkinson’s sister, who was too sick to make it.

“I was pushing for this to be done in time for her to be in good health to be here and present the flag to her but its unfortunate this process has dragged out this long,” said Lt. Col. Retired E. Tilley

Other flying tiger pilots have been identified through DNA testing, but Lt. Col. Retired E. Tilley says there are a lot of barriers in the identification process and many are still missing.

“There are 12 other families that won’t have the closure that we’ve had this weekend,” said Atkinson’s relative Dennis DuPuis. 

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