SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - One of the Mighty Eighth's Flying Aces has returned more than 70 years after he went missing in World War II.
The remains of Captain Albert Schlegel have been brought to Savannah.
"His memory never disappeared."
Retired Col. Perry Nuhn was just 11 years old when he last said goodbye to his uncle. By then, Capt. Schlegel had already earned the nickname "The Ace of Cleveland" for his skill as a fighter pilot.
"And he was a guy that liked to fly under bridges, so my uncle said he had seen every bridge from the bottom that was everywhere around because this guy liked to go down and go under a bridge all the time," said Nuhn.
Schlegel was one of the "Yanks in the RAF" volunteering to help Great Britain before the United States entered the war. And it was during that training that he was involved in an accident on the ground.
"They hit a bomb crater and he went from the front and doing that he had a concussion. The majority of his teeth got broken down to the gum level," Nuhn said.
Schlegel recovered and later transferred to the United States Eighth Air Force where he excelled becoming one of the Mighty Eighth's Aces. But in August of 1944, Schlegel and his P-51D did not return from a mission over France.
"You always had that wonder what happened. Did he bail out? We always thought the airplane had probably exploded," Nuhn said.
It wasn't until this past December that he finally got an answer.
Witnesses had reported Germans shooting and killing an airman in the days after Schlegel went missing. Over 70 years later those reports and new techniques were used to solve the mystery. Schlegel was murdered by the Germans. One gunshot wound to the head and one to the body.
"The injuries were the same. The dental part, that was the other examination. The teeth matched exactly with those RAF records from 1942, so by the time they finished they had Albert Schlegel's remains," Nuhn said.
Now, some 70 plus years later, Captain Albert Schlegel, an American hero, is finally home.
A large group of veterans welcomed the captain's remains homes and will help transport them before he is laid to rest.
"As a Vietnam Veteran, disabled veteran, I look up to the second World War Veterans for what they've done for our country. What we're trying to show our sons and daughters how they should be to their veterans," said Joe Pilon, a Vietnam Veteran.
A ceremony for Captain Schlegel will be held Wednesday morning at 10 at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. Schlegel will be buried Thursday in the Beaufort National Cemetery.