UTAH

Descendant of missing WWII airman comes ‘this close’ to finding him in France

Jul 17, 2018, 7:54 AM | Updated: 8:44 am

LAYTON — Two weeks ago, KSL Newsradio brought you the story of a Layton couple set on “Finding George,” their great-uncle who was shot down in combat by German forces over northern France in 1944.

Last week, the Army pilot’s great-nephew visited what he believes was the crash site, and perhaps came very close to Lt. George “Frankie” Wilson’s remains.

On July 8, 2018, Erik Bornemeier stood on hallowed ground.

“To be in the field the exact day, 74 years later, at the exact time, with the exact weather… everything lined up,” he said.

On July 8, 1944, German forces shot down Army pilot George “Frankie” Wilson over northern France just minutes before his B-17 was set to bomb their V-1 guided missile sites.

“I cannot erase the smell and the feel of being there,” Bornemeier recalled. “It was just really quiet.”

Lt. Wilson was 24 years old. His remains stayed hidden somewhere in northern France. Bornemeier had a hypothesis from his research of old military records.

“The crew, as they bailed out, said, ‘We got captured right away, and we landed close to the plane,’” Bornemeier had read in the Missing Air Crew Report, which the U.S. Army had produced after World War II.

“The German report said, ‘We captured them in Monchy-Cayeux.”

Bornemeier found a YouTube video from that town of 300. He wrote an email to the man who posted it.

“I said, ‘Hey, I’m coming into town. I don’t speak any French. I need a place to stay. I’m looking for a plane that has a lost loved one,’” Bornemeier explained.

“He fired back and said, ‘Hey, I got you covered.’”

The man is a social media reporter who happens to own a bed-and-breakfast.

So, off Bornemeier went to Monchy-Cayeux. Even before he got there, the town rallied to him.

“This 18-year-old kid is like, ‘I love World War II history. Can I help?’ I asked, ‘What do you got?’ And he said, ‘I got a metal detector.’ I said, “You’re hired!’”

They took the metal detector to places where the townsfolk told Bornemeier to search. Once he returned home to Utah, Bornemeier showed that it turned up pieces of a propeller blade, plus avionics-grade metal, all pieces of a silver B-17, like the one his great-uncle flew.

Bornemeier also found a small piece of the Plexiglas window.

“You can see the burn right here,” he said, pointing to its edge. “You can see the bubbling as the plane burned.”

He also recovered 50-caliber bullets, the same kind a B-17 would have carried.

“And there are 50-cals and weaponry in the river, too,” Bornemeier said. “A lot of the weapons, the townsfolk grabbed them and chucked them into the river.”

That’s so the Germans wouldn’t get them.

Then, an eyewitness to the 1944 crash, now in his 90s, told Bornemeier he remembered it like it was yesterday.

“‘I looked up, and I saw the plane, and it circled around the town three times.’”

That was long enough for Wilson’s nine crew members to escape.

“‘When it came straight down, it caught fire, and then exploded,’” Bornemeier recalled the elderly man telling him.

The witness walked up to the fiery scene and described what he saw.

“The position of the aircraft, the location of the aircraft, and there were bombs that were unexploded.”

Bornemeier is all but certain this is Lt. Wilson’s plane and crash site, but he still needs his great-uncle’s wallet – he thinks someone in France still has it – plus the local police report to locate the heroic Army pilot.

“So, if I can get that report, it’ll say this and this and this happened, this is what we found, and this is where we did with the deceased,” Bornemeier said.

While flying home to Utah, Bornemeier got word Lt. Wilson may have been buried at a church or a forgotten shrine within minutes of where he searched.

Still, Erik and his wife, Sonni – Wilson’s blood relative – are celebrating.

“I’ve never seen my dad excited. He’s very even-keeled, just chill,” Sonni said. “My family is excited. I’ve talked to relatives I haven’t spoken to in 10 or 20 years.”

They all shared the agony of not knowing where a loved one is. Sonni said, at one time, the family even heard rumors her great-uncle was still alive in Europe.

“It’s hard to mourn something that you’re not quite sure how to mourn,” she said.

But the Bornemeiers are securing their passports for another trip to France where they and their children hope to “find George” together.

The Bornemeiers have a Facebook page called “Finding George,” full of photographs and evidence they have collected. They’re trying to gain permission from the French and U.S. governments to dig at the crash site, especially one that may still contain live explosives buried in the ground.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Utah

Carrier at USPS mail truck, USPS is holding a job fair...
Mark Jones

Authorities looking for suspect who allegedly robbed post office employee

Authorities are searching for an individual who allegedly robbed an post office employee on Tuesday.
1 day ago
Changes could be coming to all elementary schools in the Salt Lake City School District....
Mark Jones

Possible changes to schools could be coming in Salt Lake City School District

Changes could be coming to all elementary schools in the Salt Lake City School District.
1 day ago
A 31-year-old man was taken into custody Wednesday in connection to a bank robbery earlier in the d...
Mark Jones

Bank robbery suspect taken into custody by Salt Lake City police

A 31-year-old man was taken into custody Wednesday in connection to a bank robbery earlier in the day.
1 day ago
Utah 2022 legislative session...
Lindsay Aerts

Count My Vote threatens ballot initiative to protect signature path to primary ballot if new bill passes

SALT LAKE CITY — A new war is brewing over signature gathering.  The citizens initiative group that ushered in Utah’s decade-old compromise creating a dual path for candidates to get on the primary election ballot — which includes signature gathering, the caucus convention system or both — is threatening to launch a statewide ballot initiative […]
1 day ago
wallet...
Elizabeth Weiler

Utahns found wallet in a wall from 1970, looking to reunite with owner

After a local restoration company was called to remediate an emergency, they began tearing down walls, leading to a wallet found in the insulation. 
1 day ago
all-star...
Tom Haraldsen

All-Star fans! Oreo cookie wants to upgrade your NBA All-Star party!

NBA fans can add a little extra swagger to their All-Star Game party here in Salt Lake City, with just 10 more days until tip off.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

This article about skijoring is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Participate in Skijoring the Bear on February 20th, 2023.  What is skijoring? Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and […]
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Descendant of missing WWII airman comes ‘this close’ to finding him in France