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Fri, Apr 23, 2004

Paulette Gooch's Brother May Soon Come Home

60 Years After Going Missing In WWII

April 29, 1944. Sgt. John Bonnassiolle -- "Jack" to his friends -- was a gunner aboard a B-24, flying only his third combat mission, when his bomber was shot down. All ten crew members were killed. The wreckage and the crew's bodies remained lost.

Paulette Gooch was only seven years old when her brother, Jack, died. Since that day, she's often wondered what became of her brother. She says it haunted her, not knowing what happened, not knowing that Jack had finally been laid to rest.

"I thought about all the years my brother and I could have shared and the family he might have had," she said.

But the ghost that has haunted Paulette Gooch for 60 years this month may soon come home to rest for all eternity.

Four years ago, after decades of worry, she finally decided to do something to find her brother and his lost crewmates. "I really wasn't very hopeful about it," she said.

Her mother wasn't much help. Even though still alive at 101, she hasn't been able -- or willing -- to provide Paulette with much information. It just hurt too much.

So Paulette turned to her computer. She soon found that her brother's name had been inscribed on a war memorial in the Netherlands. Then she went to a B-24 site and asked for help.

Boy, did she get it.

First, she found other flyers who had witnessed her brother's aircraft go down. Then she found the Missing Allied Air Crew Research Team, a European group that searches for clues about missing Allied airmen. Just a few days before hearing from Paulette, the group had ironically started its own search for Bonnassiolle's missing bomber. They found a possible site for excavation, a dig they hoped would yield the bodies of the missing Americans. For an entire summer, the non-profit research team dug in a farm plot until they found a wadded up piece of cloth.

It was John Bonnassiolle's uniform name tag.

Since then, the US Army has taken over the crash site. More information about the aircraft as well as human remains have been found. The remains are being DNA-tested for identification. Paulette hopes that her brother's bones might be quickly identified so she can share her growing peace of mind with her mother before she dies.



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