“I am trying not to openly speculate about the circumstances and events surrounding the missing crew of KW 161. Even though your uncle has been declared KIA, he is still missing.” Those words, emailed to me by a correspondent regarding Raymond Christensen, ran through the back of my mind for most of the next few days. In any idle moment I had, this sentence would resurface as I tried to put together everything I’d learned over the past few weeks and make sense of it.
My correspondent, David, who is a collector of military items and a veteran himself, had read my blog post regarding my uncle Raymond, who, along with his pilot Joseph Leonard, were lost when their plane went crashing down into the Tyrrhenian Sea near Montecristo late on the night of May 13, 1944. David had found a soldier’s cap with the name Lt. Joseph E. Leonard on it, and was doing some internet research to learn more about this fallen hero. We exchanged information – I had information on Ray, including a Missing Air Crew Report, and he had expertise on all things military, and so our conversations began.
Since our family was notified of Raymond’s status back in 1944, little has changed. The last we heard, the crew of the Bristol Beaufighter KW 161 was missing and unaccounted for. All that remained at the site of the wreckage was “much debris, an oil slick, and two life rafts.” End of story.
It was during these exchanges when David told me that Lt. Joseph Leonard was buried at the Sicily Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy: Plot H, Row 9, Grave 40. What? Raymond Christensen was not buried there, nor was he listed among any of the other identified soldiers in overseas cemeteries. Both men went down in the same location at the same time. One was recovered. One was not?
David’s words eventually sunk in: He was telling me there may be a possibility that Raymond’s remains were not lost, but unidentified. Dog tags, David explained to me, were typically the only means of identifying remains, and if Raymond had lost his dog tags in the events of that night, he may have been recovered but not identified.
More to come.