World War II Airman identified after 70 years to be buried in Clearwater Saturday

Army Air Forces 1st Lt. George W. Betchley of Yonkers, New York, was shot down by German fighters near Janowek, Poland on March 22, 1945.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – After 70 years, a World War II Airman is finally getting the burial he deserves.

Bob Betchley is laying his cousin, George Betchley to rest on Saturday.

U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. George W. Betchley, 20, of New York, was declared Missing In Action in 1945 after the B-17 he was on was shot down by German fighters.

“They completed the bombing run and were heading for a Russian base. They were attacked by fighters and lost another engine.  The pilot told them to all bail out,” said Bob Betchley.

George’s parents tried locating their son’s remains for decades before they passed away in Clearwater.

“I was a kid, I was maybe 6-years-old when he died, so I never knew him, but I’ve been told all about him,” said Betchley.

Unbeknownst to the family, George’s remains, which were being held at a cemetery in Belgium, came back to the states last year.

Students from The Iowa Ambassadors of Music Choir sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic for the Airman on the plane.

Diane Hollifield Cupp, who was returning from Germany, filmed the students’ tribute and posted the video to social media which quickly went viral.

Bob’s daughter, Kim Stretz just happen to come across the post.

“When we received word from the military that George was actually the soldier on that flight, I started putting all the pieces together,” said Stretz.

Little did Bob know, his blood would be the key to identifying his fallen cousin.

“I was informed June or July of this year that his remains were identified and my DNA was one of the big factors,’ said Betchley.

He can rest easy knowing George is home.

“To be able to finish and bury him with his mother and father is great,” said Betchley.

Cupp will also attend the funeral.

1st Lt. George W. Betchley will be buried with full military honors on Saturday at noon at Sylvan Abbey Cemetery.

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