TIPTON, Ind. – Often bad things happen in our lives, and we wonder why. But imagine accepting someone is gone, yet never really knowing what happened to them. It's pain now turned to relief for an Indiana World War II serviceman's family after 72 years.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) said Friday the remains of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Robert L. McIntosh will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
On May 12, 1944, McIntosh, 21, of Tipton, Indiana, was assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron, 1st Fighter Group, and was the pilot of a single-seat P38 aircraft, on a strafing mission against an enemy airfield in Piacenza, Italy. His crash site was never located until 2013, when a group of private citizens found wreckage in Santa Cristina, Italy.
"You just had to learn to accept it because you knew nothing," said Jeannine Baker, McIntosh's sister, "And you had to live with that."
Baker was in high school when she got a telegram around Christmas in 1944 saying her big brother Bob was missing in action.
"He was a special kind of guy. He loved life, " she said, "He always wanted to fly."
Her father was also overseas at the time in World War II. Her father went to Italy to search for his son, but the search yielded no results.
The government would declare McIntosh dead in November of 1945.
Jeannine never stopped praying her brother would find his way home. Seven decades later, her prayers were answered.
"It was nightly. It was nightly. So you can see, I'm real thrilled to have this closure. This is wonderful," she said.
In 2013 private citizens and then a volunteer group in Italy that excavates World War II sites found wreckage and remains of Lieutenant McIntosh. The United States government used DNA analysis to positively identify him, linking him to his sisters.
McIntosh disappeared in May of 1944 while coming back to southern Italy with his squadron after a mission, but his crash location could never be found.
If alive today, Bob McIntosh would've been 92 years old.
"We felt really and truly that he was with us in spirit," she said.
"It's almost unbelievable that it's happened, but it's happened," said James Baker, McIntosh's brother-in-law, "And I feel like her mother and father know it."
News of death that would normally bring tears now brings joy, as a family can finally put their soldier to rest.
"You have faith in the Lord, and that helped a lot," said Jeannine Baker, "You see all the evidence and everything put before you, and you realize that's really what happened. And it's just wonderful to finally get to know that is what happened to him."
McIntosh will be buried in Tipton on Saturday, August 13.
The visitation will be from 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. in the afternoon, followed by the funeral at 2 p.m. in the Tipton High School Auditorium. The services are open to the public.
The family asks for donations to Archeologi dell'Aria, an Italian non-profit organization or to the National WWII Musuem in New Orleans, LA in lieu of flowers.