P-47 THUNDERBOLT PILOT COMES HOME FROM HIS FINAL MISSION:

On April 17, 1945, Army Air Force Lieutenant Donald Beals and his squadron leader, Lieutenant Hobart Albright were searching for ground targets near Lonnewitz, Germany while flying in their P-47 Thunderbolts.

After spotting some parked German aircraft, Albright ordered Lt. Beals to attack. But as the 22-year-old pilot started his attack run, anti-aircraft fire opened up on the two Americans.

“Pull up, Beals. It isn’t worth it,” ordered Lt. Albright over the radio, but it was too late. Lt. Beals’ plane was struck and his P-47 was shot down.

In 1947, soldiers from the American Graves Registration Command found the crash site, but concluded that Lt. Donald Beals’ remains had “completely disintegrated in the explosion,” and were “non-recoverable.”



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P-47 Thunderbolts in flight

However, in 2014, the remains and personal items of an American pilot were discovered at a dig site near where Donald Beals’ plane had crashed. In March of 2016, the US Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency was able to positively identify the remains to be Donald Beals and notified the family of their conclusion.

“It took me days to really figure this out,” said Doug Tabner, Jr., the nephew of Lieutenant Donald Beals who lives in West Toledo, Ohio. “I have a picture of Don down in the basement. I see it every day, and I just couldn’t see it happening. I never in a million years thought it would happen.”

Doug Tabner’s mother, Meryl Tabner was an Army nurse stationed in Austria at the time of her brother’s death. In April, 1945, she was working at the liberated Ebensee concentration camp. After receiving a pass she decided to visit her brother, then a member of the 494th Fighter Group. After arriving at the group’s base in France she learned he had just taken off for a mission to Dresden. She waited for him to return from the raid, but he never came back.

A month before Meryl Tabner’s death, she was finally able to learn her little brother would be coming home.

The family plans to have Lt. Beals’ remains interred at Arlington National Cemetery.



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