Monday June 22, 2015

American airman shot down during WWII buried in B.C.

Sgt. Eric Honeyman's bombed plane was shot down over Belgium during the Battled of the Bulge in December, 1944.

Sgt. Eric Honeyman's bombed plane was shot down over Belgium during the Battled of the Bulge in December, 1944. (Family handout)

Listen 6:26

It was one of the lingering mysteries of the Second World War: An American fighter plane vanished over Belgium. Most believed the bomber - called "Hunconscious" - was shot down by the Germans. But, without a crash site or remains, no one could say for sure.  

And then a breakthrough almost a decade ago that led to today - a full military funeral for one of its airmen. American soldier Eric Honeyman was buried this afternoon in Trail, B.C.

"It was stunning news. It was the end of a long mystery," says Scott Honeyman who was Trail for his cousin's funeral. "It's very meaningful for us. The Americans went through a lot of trouble to bring him back to us and we really appreciate that."

Sgt. Honeyman's plane, the B26 Marauder dubbed "Hunconscious," disappeared over Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. No remains were found for more than six decades. And then, in 2006, a hiker stumbled across a piece of khaki fabric with Sgt. Honeyman's initials and military ID number on it. With that, military officials were able to track down his name. They then used DNA from Scott Honeyman and his brothers to confirm his identity.

All six of the Hunconscious's crew were eventually identified. 

Scott Honeyman says his cousin was a mystery to him growing up - a shadow over the family. He was only one year old when Sgt. Honeyman died, and his parents were careful not to speak about his death to him and his siblings when they were children. 

"He was a mystery in more ways than one. So this has given us an opportunity to learn something about him and to remember the sacrifices so many made to change the world in so many ways."

Sgt. Honeyman was born in Nanaimo, BC, but his parents moved the family to California where he grew up. He is being buried in Trail because the family has strong ties to the area.