The remains of a Western Kentucky fighter pilot who was shot down during World War II 63 years ago have been found and identified in Germany.
Second Lt. Howard C. “Cliff” Enoch Jr. of Marion in Crittenden County, will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 22, according to the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs.
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Enoch, a P-51 fighter pilot with the Air Force's 368th Fighter Squadron, died on March 19, 1945, when he crashed, apparently after shooting it out with a German plane. Enoch's remains were not found until 2006. His son, who was born three months after his death, spent most of his life not knowing exactly what had happened.
“For 63 years, I had no reason to believe I would ever find out what happened to my father,” Howard C. Enoch III of Framingham, Mass., told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “It's been remarkable.”
In an almost identical case last year, Lexington's Wayne Wells learned that the remains of his father had been found in Germany where his B-24 bomber was shot down in June 1944. Wells had spent his life thinking that his father, Lt. Millard C. Wells Jr., had crashed into the North Sea.
Enoch was flying a mission over Germany when he engaged a German Messerschmitt Me-110 fighter about 20 miles east of Leipzig, near the village of Doberschutz, the state VA department said. Both planes apparently went down in flames, according to information the Enoch family has received.
The crash site became part of the Soviet zone after the war, precluding recovery of any remains.
In 2004, a team from the U.S. military's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command surveyed the area and found aircraft wreckage. Two years later, another team recovered human remains. On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced that the remains have been identified using DNA samples provided by members of the lieutenant's mother's family.
A few of Enoch's relatives still live in Marion. R.C. Hamilton, a second cousin, recalled Wednesday that he and Enoch played together as boys. Enoch graduated from Marion High School in 1942.
“He was kind of a small guy,” Hamilton said, “but a little older than me.”
Enoch briefly attended the University of Cincinnati, then joined the Air Force about November 1942. Hamilton became a soldier himself, fought as an infantryman in Germany and briefly was a prisoner of war. He didn't learn of Enoch's disappearance until he came home from the war.
“His mother, Maddie Enoch, just refused to believe that he had died, and held out for a long time that he was in a prisoner-of-war camp somewhere,” Hamilton said.
Enoch's wife, Margarete Wylie Enoch, eventually remarried, and when her son was old enough, she told him that his father had disappeared in the war.
Howard Enoch III didn't know the full story until he was informed last year that remains thought to be his father's had been found.
Enoch told The Associated Press he has been trying to learn more about the father he never knew, and to explain the story to his two young daughters, ages 8 and 6.
“I'm just so proud of him and what he did for his country,” Enoch told the AP.
Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday that he will order U.S. and Kentucky flags to be lowered to half-staff at all state government buildings Sept. 22, the date when Lt. Howard Enoch's remains are interred at Arlington.
A memorial service is scheduled at the United Methodist Church in Marion on Oct. 12.