William J. McGowan, originally from Minnesota, died at the age of 23 during the Allied landings in Normandy while he was on a mission near Saint-Lô. Identified in 2019, he was buried “with full military honors at the request of a member of his family”, indicates the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), an American public body which manages the site, in a press release.
“It’s a rare occurrence because World War II military identifications aren’t that common,” said Scott Desjardins, administrator of the American Cemetery to the more than 9,300 white crosses on a green lawn overlooking Omaha Beach.
A hundred people attended the very moving ceremony, which took place under a bright sun, noted an AFP photographer. Paul Stouffer, nephew of the buried soldier, delivered the eulogy. Salutes were fired in his honor and the American dead bell rang.
“It is extremely moving to be able to honor the service, actions and sacrifice of a member of the Greatest Generation almost 80 years after his death in front of his family. It is part of the mission of the American Battle Monuments Commission and that echoes General John J. Pershing’s promise that time will not tarnish the glory of their actions,” Desjardins said in the statement.
His family had the choice of repatriating his remains to the United States or burying him in the American cemetery in Colleville. The burial had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.