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WWII MIA, U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant Robert L. Ferris Jr. laid to rest after 80 years

Press Release


After 80 years missing from World War II, U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant Robert L. Ferris Jr. has finally returned to his family in New Bern. His remains were laid to rest with full military honors at New Bern National Cemetery today.


“We owe a deep debt of gratitude to SSgt Ferris who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation,” said North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (NC DMVA) Secretary Grier Martin, “Bringing SSgt Ferris home will help his family find some measure of closure. After eight decades, this coming Memorial Day will have additional meaning to SSgt Ferris’s family.”


A funeral service for SSgt Ferris was held today at 10:00 a.m. at Cotten Funeral Home, and interment with full military honors in New Bern National Cemetery followed the service. NC DMVA Representative Military and Family Services Coordinator Roderick White presented Ferris’s family with a letter from Governor Cooper, certificates, and a flag flown over the State Capitol in his honor.


SSgt Ferris was accounted for on September 22, 2023, by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). Thursday, May 16th, his remains were received by his family and NC DMVA Director of Transition Services Andrea Allard at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.  After the plane side honors and the dignified transfer conducted by a United States Army Honor Guard, SSgt Ferris’s remains were escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders from RDU to New Bern, North Carolina. A brief ceremony was held on Sunday, May 19th when he was awarded the Purple Heart as well as other accolades.


SSgt Ferris served in the 401st Bombardment Squadron, 91st Bombardment Group. On December 20, 1942, he was the ball turret gunner aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress (nicknamed “Danellen”) with a crew of eight other members. During a bombing mission in France, his aircraft was shot down by an enemy fighter plane and crashed near the village of Bernieres–sur–Seine. During postwar recovery efforts, only one set of remains was successfully identified by the American Graves Registration Service. In 2019, three sets of unknown remains believed to be associated with the crew of “Danellen” were sent to a DPAA laboratory for further study. 80 years after he was declared missing from WWII, on September 22, 2023, DPAA identified the remains of SSgt Ferris through laboratory analysis and the totality of the circumstantial evidence.

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