Human remains discovered at a long-hidden crash site in Austria may be those of a missing Tuskegee airman whose plane went down during World War II.
Military forensic scientists are trying to determine if bones discovered in Austria belonged to Capt. Lawrence Dickson, the Washington Post reports.
The 24-year-old fighter pilot went down on Dec. 23, 1944 while escorting a reconnaissance plane toward what was then Czechoslovakia.
Marla Andrews, Dickson’s 75-year-old daughter he never got to meet, said she recently gave a DNA sample to see if the remains are a match.
She got a call last August from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which discovered a crash site near the border with Italy after years of searching.
“Have you found his body?” she recalled to the Washington Post asking the caller. “No, but we’re looking.”
If the remains do turn out to be Dickson’s, they’ll be the first of a Tuskegee airman discovered since the war ended nearly 73 years ago.
Dickson was born in South Carolina, moved to Harlem and attended City College of New York before joining the segregated Army air division, which trained black pilots at Tuskegee Army Air Field, according to the Washington Post.
His plane went down just before Christmas in 1944 when the engine on his P-51 Mustang gave out not long before his squad took off from Italy.
“Capt. Dickson called to me over the radio and told me that he was about to bail out,” Lt. Robert Martin wrote in a report later cited by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Martin said he saw the plane flip over, but the snowy ground made it hard for him to see if Dickson could activate his parachute.
“Judging from the way in which the plane struck the ground, I do not believe the pilot (Dickson) was in the plane at the time of the crash,” he wrote.
Dickson’s widow, Phyllis, tried in vain for years to find out what happened to her husband, Andrews told the Washington Post.
“I can’t even sleep for thinking about him being sick somewhere & not having anyone to care for him properly,” she wrote to the War Department in June 1945.
DPAA researchers first started looking at the area in May 2012, where they found parts of a P-51 under moss and trees that still had burn marks from the flaming fighter plane.
“They still had the ash on them, still burnt,” DPAA researcher Joshua Frank told the Washington Post.
Some of the human remains were moved to a military laboratory in Nebraska last fall for testing.
Andrews, who’s now legally blind and lives in East Orange, N.J., told the Washington Post she’s holding out some hope it’s her father.
“You take it as it comes,” she said of any news of the search.