An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

WWII Reaper returns home after 72 years MIA, Whiteman squadron pays tribute

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

After more than 70 years missing in action, one of the 13th Bomb Squadron’s Grim Reapers finally returned home to his country and his family in Ashby, Massachusetts.

On March 12, 1944, Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Roy Davis was one of two A-20G Havoc bomber crewmembers who didn’t make it back after a mission in northeastern New Guinea during World War II. After numerous unsuccessful attempts over the years, Davis’s remains were finally accounted for last year.

Davis, a member of the 13th Bombardment Squadron, 3rd Bombardment Group, received a proper burial with full military honors on June 23, 2018. The event included a tribute from two current Reapers who traveled from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to represent the squadron and honor one of their own.

"It’s about tradition and heritage," said Capt. Keith Stock, a pilot at Whiteman AFB assigned to the 13th BS. "The squadron is a family that’s been around for more than a century – it’s one of the oldest units in the U.S. Air Force and has engaged in almost every major conflict, including WWII, when Staff Sgt. Davis was a member."

Stock and fellow Reaper pilot 1st Lt. Brandon Cameron presented Davis’s brother with a uniform patch that members of the current 13th BS wear, a commemorative coin featuring the squadron’s Reaper mascot, and a letter from the 13th BS commander, Lt. Col. Geoffrey Steeves.

"Every day the Airmen of the 13th Bomb Squadron strive to live up to the example established by our forefathers, including your brother Staff Sgt. Davis," Steeves wrote to Davis’s younger brother, Norman Davis. "We are honored to be part of the same squadron in which your brother was once a member."

In addition to Whiteman’s Reapers, veterans and service members from all five branches as well as members of the Ashby Police and Fire departments attended the memorial service in dress uniform. Almost 100 people paid their respects to the war hero. During the ceremony, Norman Davis received a folded American flag in memory of his brother’s military service.

"It was quite an honor," he said after the burial ceremony. "Roy was a good brother. He meant a lot to me."

From unaccounted to recovered

During and after WWII, attempts were made to locate Davis, 2nd Lt. Vernal J. Bird and their aircraft. The men were listed by the War Department as deceased and thought to be non-recoverable. That is, until September 2001.

A recovery team from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency located a crash site in a remote area of Papua New Guinea. Meanwhile, a Papua New Guinea native turned over pieces of wreckage he claimed to have recovered from the site, where possible remains were also found. Those remains were identified as Bird’s in 2013.

In 2016, a recovery team excavated the crash site. The team recovered additional remains, which went through DNA analysis. The material matched Davis’s records.

Along with other MIA personnel from WWII, Davis’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he has finally been accounted for and returned home.

Davis was laid to rest next to his father and mother, Chester and Gertrude Davis, in the Glenwood Cemetery.

"Staff Sgt. Davis’s willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for our nation defines what it means to be a 13th Bomb Squadron Airman," Steeves, the current 13th BS commander, said. "His legacy inspires us. Once a Reaper, always a Reaper."