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Remains of US airman to be buried at Ft. Snelling, 79 years after crash

Staff Sgt. Donald R. Duchene of St. Paul was a tail gunner on a B-24 bomber that was shot down during a World War II mission over oil fields in Romania.

FORT SNELLING, Minn. — A Minnesota soldier will finally be home and at rest, nearly 80 years after being shot down over Romania in the midst of World War II. 

U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Donald R. Duchene will be interred at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Oct. 5. A funeral service will precede the burial. His family tells KARE 11 Duchene's remains will arrive in Minnesota 7 to 10 days prior to the official ceremony. 

Duchene, a St. Paul native, was a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator crew that was struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire on Aug. 1, 1943 while on a bombing run against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania. His remains were not identified, and were buried along with others as unknowns in the hero section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania. 

Donald Duchene was just 19 years old at the time of his death. 

Credit: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
Staff Sergeant Donald Duchene and crew pose in front of their B-24 Liberator bomber. Duchene was killed on Aug. 1, 1943 when his plane was shot down.

After the war American forces collected the remains of unidentified servicemen, they eventually ended up at an Air Force lab in Nebraska and on July 8, 2022, Duchene was identified using DNA technology and other circumstantial evidence. 

RELATED: 79 years later, military identifies St. Paul airman's remains

Duchene's name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

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