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World War II pilot laid to rest 75 years after fatal crash

BRISTOL, R.I. — A World War II pilot who died in a plane crash in Bulgaria 75 years ago after helping nine fellow crew members to safety has finally been laid to rest in his native Rhode Island.

A funeral service was held Saturday for Army Air Forces 1st Lt. John D. Crouchley Jr. at the North Burial Grounds in Bristol.

Crouchley, with the 828th Bombardment Squadron, 485th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, was piloting a B-24H Liberator on a mission over Romania in June 1944. The plane was shot down and crashed near Churen, Bulgaria.

Before the crash, the 26-year-old continued to pilot the aircraft, allowing the nine other crew members to bail out and survive, according to the military.

Crouchley’s remains were discovered in 2017 during a renewed effort to find him by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and positively identified last September. They arrived at T.F. Green Airport on Thursday.

Crouchley will receive several posthumous awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.

His funeral featured the playing of Taps and a three-volley rifle salute.

U.S. Army Air Corps 1st Lt. John D. Crouchley, kneeling, second right, and his crew pose for a photo by their B-24 Liberator, “Miss Yankee Rebel” in 1944. Crouchley was assigned to the 828th Bombardment Squadron, 485th Bombardment Group, Foggia, Italy, and went into combat in May 1944. Just one month later, he paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country when his aircraft was shot down over Bulgaria when he and his crew were returning from a bombing mission over Romania June 28, 1944. (Courtesy photo)
U.S. Army Air Corps 1st Lt. John D. Crouchley, kneeling, second right, and his crew pose for a photo by their B-24 Liberator, “Miss Yankee Rebel” in 1944. Crouchley was assigned to the 828th Bombardment Squadron, 485th Bombardment Group, Foggia, Italy, and went into combat in May 1944. Just one month later, he paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country when his aircraft was shot down over Bulgaria when he and his crew were returning from a bombing mission over Romania June 28, 1944. (Courtesy photo)
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