Lt. Thomas Kelly of Livermore was a B-24 bombardier whose remains were found only months ago. Dozens gathered at St. Michael Cemetery for a ceremony that included a 21-gun salute and a B-24 flyover.
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For decades, all family members knew was that Lt. Kelley and his crew disappeared off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Lt. Kelly was the bombardier for the B-24 bomber, "Heaven Can Wait".
"They told us that the plane was shot down," said Diane Christie, Lt. Kelly's niece. "That's what the telegram said, that's what the commanding officer's letter said a few months later. But you never really know."
Tribute to #Livermore native Lt. Thomas Kelly, the bombardier of the ill-fated B-24 D “Heaven Can Wait”. Wreckage was found near Papua New Guinea late last year, 73 years after plane and crew disappeared. #MemorialDay2018 pic.twitter.com/bAShLssfqy— Lilian Kim (@liliankim7) May 28, 2018
But last October, the family got word that the plane and the remains of the crew were found at the bottom of Hansa Bay. Project Recover, a group dedicated to finding missing service members, made the discovery using underwater robots.
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"It's pretty much a needle within a haystack of needles in many respects. It's very, very difficult because the ocean is a lot bigger than it looks," said Patrick Scannon of Project Recover.
"After all these years, we finally have seen where our relative's grave lies and the graves of 10 other members of his crew," said Scott Althaus, Lt. Kelly's cousin.
For 74 years, family members have paid their respects at Lt. Kelly's memorial marker here at the family plot. But now, they're hoping his remains will be recovered and be brought back home.
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"My grandparents, my mother, my stepfather are all buried over there. It would be wonderful to bring it home and put him there with them. It would mean a lot," said Christie.
It's up to the Department of Defense to recover the remains. But for now, the family has found some comfort this Memorial Day weekend having the answers for which they've waited decades.
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