A special service and procession of heroes will be held today in Chester, W.Va., for a World War II veteran who had been missing for decades but was found last year.
Richard Horrigan’s niece, Karen Conklin of Liberty, said she and her family would be among those in attendance. She is a spokesperson for the family of the 1st Lieutenant of the Air Force.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced earlier this year that Horrigan, 24, from Chester, who was killed during World War II, was found on August 19, 2021.
In April 1945, Horrigan was a pilot on duty in Germany. It crashed while strafing enemy planes behind enemy lines, according to the accounting agency.
Conklin said his cousin, Dr. Richard Horrigan, 76, of San Francisco, a retired physician and Richard Horrigan’s only child, will attend the event to honor his father.
Horrigan is scheduled to be buried with full military honors with an honor guard from West Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well as a police and fire escort from Chester and Hancock County Sheriff’s vehicles. .
Conklin said the American Legion in Florida donated 150 flags and yellow ribbons will line Carolina Avenue. The Chester Lions Club will also display flags from the Flags for Heroes program.
His remains arrived in the Ohio Valley on Friday morning, landing at Pittsburgh International Airport before being escorted back to his hometown by an assembly of veterans and local law enforcement. Among them was a group of about 30 members of the Legion Riders, who gathered at American Legion Post 10 in Weirton before heading to the airport, where they would meet with representatives of the West Virginia Patriot Guard and d others before accompanying the Second World War. pilot back in Hancock County.
“We are escorting them to Chester to Arner’s Funeral Home”, Weirton’s Jack Newbrough said.
The escort also included representatives from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and the Chester Police Department.
NEVER KNOWN FATHER
Conklin said the family only had memories.
His father’s sister was married to Richard Horrigan.
“My cousin never knew his father. I watched my cousin grow up without a father. It’s going to be hard to bury the dad he never knew. It was emotional for him and the family,” she says.
Conklin said his own parents served in the military, with his father in the navy and his mother in the coast guard.
She said it wasn’t until they were much older that they shared stories of service.
“In a small town like Chester, it will be great to bring the community together to pay tribute and say thank you to a veteran and hero of the Second World War who is here. It’s 77 years of preparation. The whole family is grateful that he is buried and that his sacrifice does not go unnoticed,” Conklin said.
Conklin said the public is invited to watch the procession to the cemetery. Residents are invited to participate by walking along Carolina Avenue.
Horrigan graduated from Chester High School in 1938. He trained as a fighter pilot and was sent overseas as a pilot with the 22nd Fighter Squadron, 36th Fighter Group, 9th Army Air Force.
Conklin said a team from History Flight Inc. excavated the site in eastern Germany where Horrigan crashed in April 1945. Excavations took place in the summer of 2019 and Horrigan’s remains were found. been identified in 2021.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Horrigan was flying missions when his fighter jet, a P-47D Thunderbolt, was shot down in eastern Germany.
Horrigan was part of an armed reconnaissance mission at Alt Lunnewitz Airfield on April 19. Horrigan’s wingman witnessed the crash, but as the airfield was behind enemy lines, Horrigan could not be recovered.
Horrigan, 24, was thought to have died instantly near the airfield on April 19, three weeks before the end of the war in Europe.
Once sufficient evidence became available that he did not survive, a death report for Horrigan was issued in November 1945.
Accounting agency officials advised that Horrigan’s remains could not be recovered because the airfield was behind enemy lines and recovery by the American Graves Registration Command was becoming nearly impossible. Because Alt Lunnewitz airfield was under the strict control of Soviet forces, they could not investigate Horrigan’s crash.
A German national investigated on behalf of the AGRC in 1953, confirming through an eyewitness that human remains had been seen in the accident, but they were never recovered and buried. Because the AGRC was not allowed to investigate the site, Horrigan was declared unsalvageable in October 1953.
EXCAVATION AND RECOVERY
History Flight Inc. is a nonprofit organization that took on the task of locating and excavating Horrigan’s remains.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency returned in 2017 to the site and located what they believed to be Horrigan’s plane. In June 2019, the accounting agency hired History Flight Inc. to perform the actual excavation and recovery.
Physical evidence and possible remains were recovered and initially transferred to police in Herzberg, Germany, before being sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for analysis in August 2019, according to A press release.
DPAA scientists used dental and anthropological analysis as well as circumstantial and physical evidence, and Armed Forces Medical Examiner scientists used DNA analysis to make a positive identification in August 2021.
The DPAA says Horrigan’s name is recorded on the missing tablets at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, a US Battle Monuments Commission site in Homburg, Belgium, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to their name to indicate that they have been considered.
Craig Howell, editor of the Weirton Daily Times, a sister publication to the Tribune Chronicle, contributed to this story.