British Columbia

WW II pilot Eric Honeyman's remains brought home to B.C. after 70 years

When B.C.-born U.S air force pilot Eric Honeyman was killed during WW II, he was thought lost forever. Now he’s returning home to be laid to rest after 70 years.

Fighter pilot killed while flying over Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge

WW II fighter pilot Eric Honeyman, seen here in an undated family image, was buried in Trail, B.C., with military honours. (Canadian Press)

More than 70 years after he was killed in World War II, Sgt. Eric Honeyman was laid to rest in Trail, B.C. today. Honeyman, who was a fighter pilot in the U.S. air force, was born in Trail before his family moved to Alameda, Calif.

He was shot down during the Battle of the Bulge while on a mission over Belgium. where his remains lay undiscovered for over six decades. In 2006, a hiker came across the plane's wreckage, which eventually led to an investigation and the excavation of Honeyman's remains.

"It's incredibly moving to have him found and to be able to have this ceremony," said Scott Honeyman, the cousin of the fallen soldier.

Scott was to attend today's commemoration along with over 30 other family members. Though he was only one-year-old when his cousin passed away, he is Eric's oldest living relative.

"As far as I know, no one living that we know knew him. That's one of the frustrating things, we're here to say goodbye and we never got to say hello."

Eric spent the majority of his life in California before enlisting in the war. Despite that, he remained a Canadian citizen.

The decision to bury Eric at the Mountain View Cemetery was made to honour tradition.

"[Eric's] parents both donated their bodies to science, so there is no grave site in Alameda. There are quite a few Honeymans here … so he's going to be buried with them along with a watch that belonged with his dad," said Scott.

End of a long journey

Even though Eric's remains were discovered in 2006, Scott said he wasn't notified until 2010.

"It's been an incredible, fascinating journey. There were two summers when the American military were there doing extensive excavations. They spent another year or so doing DNA testing on the bones."

Today's procession was to be accompanied by U.S. military honours including a 21-gun salute. For Scott, it's the perfect way to say goodbye to his long-lost family member.

"It means a lot to us that our family roots are in a caring community like this. What we know about [Eric] is mostly anecdotal, and one thing we know for sure is he died a hero."

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