PARIS (Reuters) — A French news magazine said Thursday it had identified a World War II American pilot whose remains were found in north France last month as a veteran flier who survived Pearl Harbor and shot down three Japanese planes.
Paris-Match said the body was that of Lt. William Patton who went missing in action in January 1945 when his P-51 Mustang became separated from a formation escorting bombers from England for a raid over Nazi Germany.
Patton was on the ground when the Japanese bombed a military airfield near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941. He then shot down three Japanese planes at the battle of Midway the following year, the magazine said.
Paris-Match said its reporters went to his home town, Granby, Mo., and published a letter from U.S. authorities to his family in 1946 saying Patton was last seen over Roubaix, France, near the Belgian border.
The wreckage of a Mustang was discovered in the same area last month during drainage work. A body found amid the wreckage had military identification discs in Patton's name.
The remains were flown to the United States on March 1 for forensic tests to ensure positive identification before being given to the family.
Patton's niece, Joyce Montez, told Paris-Match that the family had long hoped that Patton had survived, possibly having lost his memory, and would return home one day.
Photos showed that items recovered from the crashed Mustang, including a "Mae West" life jacket and parachute, were in remarkably good condition.