SALT LAKE CITY, UT (KUTV/CNN) - A world war two soldier is back home 74 years after he died in a plane crash in Germany.
The family of Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Lynn W. Hadfield gathered at Salt Lake International Airport to receive the casket Tuesday.
“Three years ago, we had no idea this could happen, and today it’s happening,” said Chris Turner, Hadfield’s grandson.
Turner said he is amazed that people his family has never met in another part of the world brought his grandfather back home 74 years after he died in Germany.
“People that didn’t know him, people that didn’t know us, ... they spent the effort, time, their skills, the money, to bring him home,” he said.
It was near the end of World War II when 25-year-old Hadfield was piloting a plane that was hit by enemy fire.
Hadfield and two others on board died in the crash.
“It was near the end of the war. I think he helped bring the end of the war closer. Within about three months of his crash, the war was pretty much over,” Turner said.
Decades later, a German man, Adolf Hagedorn, found the crash site, and the digging began to find the plane.
Through DNA, Hadfield’s remains were identified. Some of his belongings were found, too.
“We have the pilot wings. We have the fountain pen cap that has his name on it, and there’s a fragment of shirt tied to that fountain cap. And we also have his dog tags,” he said.
Through the work of donations and volunteers, Hadfield’s remains are home.
Turner said his mother, who was only 17 months old when her father died, was at the airport to receive the casket.
“She feels like she has met her biological dad for the first time in her life,” he said.
Hadfield will be buried with full military honors on Thursday at the Utah Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bluffdale.