It has been 76 years since Sgt. Howard Gotts was declared missing in action, and later dead, after the plane he was in crashed during World War II.
Nearly eight decades later, the local burial his family has always hoped for will become reality.
Gotts’ remains, which were identified by DNA earlier this year, will be laid to rest Monday during an 11 a.m. ceremony at Sandhill Cemetery off Routes 5&20 in the town of Seneca. A post-funeral meet and greet follows at the town pavilion on Flint Road.
“There has been quite a bit of community interest in this,” said Joyce Richardson, whose grandmother is Gotts’ sister. “I don’t believe we will see anything like this around here again.”
Gotts was part of “Operation Tidal Wave” on Aug. 1, 1943 — an air attack by bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces based in Libya and southern Italy on nine oil refineries around Ploesti, Romania. At the time, the Ploesti Oil Complex was supplying about 35 percent of the petroleum needs for Nazi Germany and the Axis war machine.
The mission was one of the costliest for the U.S. Air Forces in the European Theater, with 53 aircraft and 660 crewmen — including Gotts — lost due to heavy anti-aircraft fire from German and Romanian forces, as well as German planes. Gotts, who was the radio operator in a B-24 Liberator, was declared missing in action and later dead.