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Published on: Monday, July 8, 2024 read more ...

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Missing WWII Bomber Crewman Buried at ANC

By Kevin M. Hymel on 4/25/2024

Twenty-two-year-old Sgt. Irving R. Newman never returned from his bombing mission over Sicily in May of 1943. The B-24 Liberator bomber, of which he was a crewmember, took enemy anti-aircraft fire and his pilot tried to land the bomber on the island of Malta, but the burning aircraft crashed into the Mediterranean Sea short of the runway. Nine of the bomber’s crew were rescued, but Newman went down with the aircraft.

Newman remained in his watery grave until 2018, when the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and a partner organization recovered suspected human remains from the recently discovered wreck. Using anthropological and dental analysis, as well as DNA testing, DPAA personnel contacted Newman’s two closest living relatives and later identified him.

Those two relatives, James and Irwin Wurster, both second cousins once removed, wanted Newman buried at Arlington National Cemetery. “This is his honor,” Edwin Wurster explained about the cemetery. “It’s the highest honor.”

On a cool rainy day on April 12, 2024, eighty-one years after his death, Sgt. Newman was finally laid to rest in Section 18. During the funeral service, a U.S. Army firing party fired three volleys, a bugler sounded Taps, and then U.S. Army Band played “America the Beautiful.”

Rabbi Randy Brown then invited the small gathering of family and friends to join him in singing “Oseh Shalom Bimromav,” a Jewish prayer of peace. Brown reminded the group that it took 10 people to recite the traditional Kaddish prayer, the same number as the crew of Newman’s bomber. “So those nine other members of the crew couldn’t have that completeness,” he said. “Today, at Arlington National Cemetery, we’re finally giving unity to the crew.” He then expressed gratitude that the country never lost hope in searching for one of its fallen sons, “so we could give him the honor that he deserves.”

Brown then recited the Kaddish and explained that Newman had finally found peace and rest, “in a life that was cut too short.” He picked up a chrome-plated bucket and invited the group to sprinkle dirt on the casket, for what he called a tradition of love and kindness. One by one, people stepped up the casket and released small amounts of dirt.

After the service, Edwin and James Wurster recalled their surprise when the DPAA contacted them to request DNA samples. “We didn’t even know we had a cousin,” said James. Edwin remembered meeting Newman’s mother only once when he was a child. “Because he only lived that short while,” said Edwin, “there wasn’t a lot of information about him.” Yet Edwin was amazed that his cousin had been returned to his family after so much time. Or as Edwin thoughtfully put it, “Irving found me.”