UNL group joins excavation project of WWII bomber in Europe

Plane is believed to have crashed in Munster, Germany, in 1945

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — A group from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is in Germany as part of an excavation project of a World War II aircraft. 

The group’s assignment?

Digging up the bones of war heroes.

“These individuals have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and it’s the least we can do to bring them home,” said Mason McKinney, a UNL graduate student on the trip. 

Thirteen total made the trip: Eleven students, assistant professor of anthropology William Belcher and a teaching assistant.

They’re currently in Munster, Germany, excavating a B-24 H Bomber, which is believed to have crashed in 1945 during World War II.  Belcher says it’s an opportunity for these students to give families of U.S. veterans some closure. 

“Everybody we go out for and search for was somebody’s husband, was somebody’s brother, somebody’s son,” Belcher said before the group made the trip. “I think those are all things as family members can reflect on. I think that’s what keeps people motivated.”  

And this is personal for Belcher and Mason McKinney. Both have military family members, so despite being in Europe for the first time, McKinney says he’ll stay motivated.

“With the mission that we have, it will be pretty easy to stay focused, especially working for such a good cause,” McKinney said. 

This is indeed a full-time job, as UNL has partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense’s POW and MIA Accounting Agency. The students will be trained and then work nine- to ten-hour days. 

“In muddy, cold and wet conditions at times, recovering different kinds of material and biological evidence,” Belcher said.

Belcher hopes this hands-on experience of a lifetime is something students at UNL can be a part of for years to come. 

“I’m hoping we’re going to be doing this until the U.S. government tells us not too or we’re tired of doing it,” he said.

Categories: Nebraska News, News