The remains of a World War II lieutenant are finally back home in Massachusetts after going unidentified for 76 years.
First Lt. Joseph Finneran was a U.S. Army Air Force Soldier assigned to the 345th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy), known as the Pyramidiers, during World War II. He was killed while participating in a very low bombing mission over an oil refinery in Romania in 1943.
Lt. Finneran, who served on the B-24D, had completed 25 missions when he and his crew-mates were lost in Operation Tidal Wave.
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For his heroism and valor during WWII, Finneran was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
The remains went unidentified for decades until advances in technology helped positively identify them as the remains of Finneran.
Finneran's remains landed on American soil at Boston's Logan Airport earlier Friday evening and were then taken to Needham where people had lined Highland Ave. to salute the lieutenant.
Lt. Finneran’s nephew William Glennon says he can’t believe his uncle is finally home.
“Aug. 12 I got a phone call at home. I couldn’t believe it," Glennon said. "Because two years ago we thought we had an identification and it didn’t work out...This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever been part of in my life. Really, what a town this town this is, to turn out like this.”
“It’s a sad story," said Jeff Gilbreth, a Needham resident who came out to show his support. "But a nice thing to do for a real war hero.”
“We honor every veteran, no matter when they passed away, so it’s great to be here,” said Chris Derocher, a Patriot Guard Rider who showed up Friday night to salute Finneran.
Finneran, who was also a caddy at Needham Country Club in the '30s, according to his family, will be buried next to his mother.
The public is encouraged to come out to Lt. Finneran’s wake and funeral, which will coincide with Veteran’s Day weekend.
The wake will be held Friday, Nov. 8 at the Doherty Funeral home from 4 to 7 p.m. A mass of Christian burial will be held at St. Joseph’s Church in Needham on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 10 a.m.