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World War II pilot returns home to Chester

Craig Howell BRINGING HIM HOME – Approximately 30 members of the “Legion Riders” departed the American Legion Post 10 in Weirton Friday morning, traveling to the Pittsburgh International Airport, in order to join an escort returning the remains of First Lt. Richard Horrigan to Chester. Horrigan, a native of Chester and a pilot with the U.S. Army Air Forces, was lost during an armed reconnaissance mission over Germany in April 1945.

CHESTER – Almost 80 years after being lost during an armed reconnaissance mission over Germany, a Chester native has returned home.

The remains of First Lt. Richard Horrigan arrived in the Ohio Valley Friday morning, landing at Pittsburgh International Airport before being escorted to his hometown by an assembly of veterans and local law enforcement.

Among those was a group of approximately 30 members of the Legion Riders, who gathered at the American Legion Post 10 in Weirton before riding to the airport, where they would meet with representatives of the West Virginia Patriot Guard and others before accompanying the World War II pilot back to Hancock County.

“We’re escorting them all the way to Chester to Arner Funeral Home,” Jack Newbrough of Weirton explained.

The escort also included representatives of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and the Chester Police Department.

A private service will be held for family at Arner Funeral Home Sunday. Following the service, a hero’s procession will travel along Carolina Avenue, beginning at 2:30 p.m., to Locust Hill Cemetery, where Horrigan will be given full military honors and reunited with his wife, Dorothy Conklin Horrigan who died in 2007.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Horrigan, 24, was a pilot with the 22nd Fighter Squadron, 36th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force. He was flying a P-47D Thunderbolt on April 19, 1945 as part of an armed reconnaissance mission to the Alt Lonnewitz Airfield in Germany, crashing, most likely as a result of anti-aircraft fire, while strafing enemy planes at the airfield.

As the crash took place behind enemy lines, Horrigan could not be recovered and was declared dead in November 1945.

A German national was able to investigate the site on behalf of the American Graves Registration Command in 1953, confirming human remains had been seen at the crash site. However, the area was under Soviet control at the time. A preliminary search wasn’t conducted until 2004, with excavation approved in 2006 and a full search conducted in March 2017 locating Horrigan’s aircraft.

History Flight Inc. performed an excavation in June 2019, recovering remains which were initially transferred to police in Herzberg, Germany, and then to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

His remains were officially accounted for Aug. 19, 2021. The identification was made public in February.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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