Remains of a WWII fighter pilot given back to his family more than 70 years later

The family of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William J. Gray Jr. made peace a long time ago with the fact that the WWII fighter pilot's body was never recovered. Back in April 16, 1945 the man was just 21-years-old. He died then during a dive-bombing mission in Lindau, Germany and only now was his body recovered.

Investigators found the remains of William J. Gray Jr. embedded at the base of a tree during another recovery mission which took place last year. The bones found in the small town near the southeast border of Germany were properly identified as the DNA matched the one of Gray's sister. The first lieutenant participated in more than 68 missions. His plane clipped a tree and crashed when he was carrying out a dive bombing attack mission back in on April 16, 1945. The tree not just protected the remains but also marked the spot as it grew over the years over his remains.

Military burial of William J. Gray Jr. next to his best friend;s resting place at the Tahoma National Cemetery

Now, more than 70 years later, the bones were transported back to Seattle, Washington. Gray was buried next to his best friend Jim Louvier. The two best friends enlisted in the Air Force together. Unfortunately only Louvier returned home after the war. He married Gray's younger sister and made good on the promise they made to each other to take care of the other's family in the eventuality that either one of them wasn't going to make it back home. William J. Gray Jr.'s best friend died in 2010 at the age of 89.