Lt. William Baily Montgomery gave his life to save others. As a B-24 Liberator bomber pilot in the Eighth Air Force during World War II, his bomber took flak over Saint-Cyr, France, near the German border, on June 22, 1944. Montgomery and his copilot struggled to get their shot-up bomber home. Once they reached the English coast, Montgomery ordered his crew to bail out. Seven crewmen successfully left the aircraft, leaving Montgomery, his copilot, and engineer. The bomber crashed into a farm in West Sussex, England, killing the three.
Search crews recovered the copilot’s remains from the wreckage, but Montgomery and the engineer were both listed as missing in action and their names memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at the Cambridge Cemetery in England.
The U.S. Army Graves Registration Command and, later, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) never gave up the search for the two airmen. DPAA investigators searched the area numerous times before discovering human remains and material evidence in June 2021. The remains were sent to Dover Air Force Base, Del., where Montgomery’s remains were identified a year and half later.
At his funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 13, 2023, Lt. Montgomery’s nephew, William Baily Montgomery, stood to accept the American flag that had been draped over his uncle’s casket. “For what he did for our country,” the younger Montgomery later said, “he deserved to be here.”
Army Chaplain (Cpt.) Brady Feltz told the gathered family and friends that Lt. Montgomery had faithfully and honorably served his country and that he was a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, “signifying that he has shed his blood in defense of our nation.”
The officials offering Lt. Montgomery’s nephew condolences included four representatives from DPAA. “We not only research, identify, recover and bring a family member home,” said Mark Abueg, DPAA’s director of outreach and communications, “we support the family for whatever they need.”
William Montgomery, the nephew, appreciated the 79-year search for his uncle. “They never quit,” he said, adding, as he looked at the soldiers and civilians in attendance at the funeral. “They found him, and they did all this for us. It's greatly appreciated.”