2017-09-08 / News Update

Technology aids identifying fallen heroes after 72 years

BY AIRMAN 1ST CLASS ALYSSA AKERS
5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


Navy sailors carry World War II veteran Fireman 1st Class Lawrence Fecho’s casket during his funeral in Willow City, N.D., Aug. 13. Fecho, killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941, was recently identified and returned home. 
PHOTOS BY AIRMAN 1ST CLASS ALYSSA M. AKERS / U.S. AIR FORCE Navy sailors carry World War II veteran Fireman 1st Class Lawrence Fecho’s casket during his funeral in Willow City, N.D., Aug. 13. Fecho, killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941, was recently identified and returned home. PHOTOS BY AIRMAN 1ST CLASS ALYSSA M. AKERS / U.S. AIR FORCE “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

With those words, President Franklin Roosevelt ensured America would never forget Pearl Harbor.

Betty Anderson was only 15 years old, but this would be a day she and her family would never forget.

“I was out Sunday afternoon with a couple of girls [when it happened],” said Anderson, sister to Navy Fireman 1st Class Lawrence Fecho. “[At the time] we didn’t think too much of it.”

Lawrence was assigned to the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor. His ship was struck by nine Japanese torpedoes, causing it to capsize. 429 sailors and marines were trapped, giving the ultimate sacrifice, their life.


Betty Anderson, sister to World War II veteran Navy Fireman 1st Class Lawrence Fecho, accepts a flag during Fecho’s funeral in Willow City, N.D., Aug. 13. Anderson, 90, is the last living sibling of Fecho. Betty Anderson, sister to World War II veteran Navy Fireman 1st Class Lawrence Fecho, accepts a flag during Fecho’s funeral in Willow City, N.D., Aug. 13. Anderson, 90, is the last living sibling of Fecho. “I thought it was impossible he was dead,” said Anderson. “We all thought maybe he went to town and stayed overnight. We just received Christmas cards from him. [But] a few days after, we were told he was killed.”

In 1943, the Oklahoma was removed from the ocean and the bodies were recovered. Due to the lack of technology at the time, many were buried without being identified. They were laid to rest with a shared memorial stone.

Lawrence was still missing.

72 years after recovery and with the advance in technology, the Department of Defense announced plans to identify the originally unidentified remains of those killed and buried.

Lawrence was one of the missing who were identified.

He was finally returned home to North Dakota, on Aug. 13, 2017. He was laid to rest at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Willow Creek.

Lawrence was welcomed by Willow City natives, Minot Air Force Base Airmen, families and military veterans. More than 200 people lined the streets for Lawrence’s return.

“I think this community has answered the call pretty well,” said Bill Fecho, Willow City mayor and Lawrence’s nephew. “The amount of support we’re getting is unbelievable.”

Support came from not only the community, but also military members from Minot AFB.

“I supported the memorial to serve those who served before me, especially those who lost their lives while serving,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Knight, 5th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of officer and enlisted promotions, retirements and separations. “I will try to attend as many of these returns as possible, they deserve it.”

The funeral also brought Lawrence’s extended family together. Approximately 40 relatives from all over the country attended the return.

“We would never get together without something of this magnitude happening,” said Bill. “It brought the family close.”

The memorial was an example that those who serve and lose their life live on to this day.

“I feel it’s our duty as Airmen and as Americans to support those who answer the call to protect this country and to pay our respects to them and their families,” said Knight. “I ensure that the member and their families know that they are not forgotten.”

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