MILLER, S.D. — The remains of a World War II fighter pilot from South Dakota will be buried in his hometown of Miller more than 70 years after he went missing during a fierce combat mission in Germany.

The Argus Leader ( ) reported that 1st Lt. Ben B. Barnes will be laid to rest on Saturday during a ceremony at GAR Cemetery in Miller. Barnes remained missing and presumed dead for decades, until his remains were recovered from a crash site northeast of Berlin.

Lt. Col. David Fossum with the South Dakota Army National Guard said Barnes’ remains weren’t found for so long, partly because the area where he crashed was located behind the Iron Curtain, a barrier separating the former Soviet bloc and the West prior to the decline of communism, after World War II ended and the Cold War began.

“We couldn’t get in the area,” said Lt. Col. David Fossum with the South Dakota Army National Guard. “The Russians wouldn’t let us.”

Fossum said Barnes was an only child. His father died in 1956 and his mother later died in 1973.

According to Jim Jones, a Hand County commissioner and longtime board member of the GAR Cemetery, Barnes’ mother at 87, would still reminisce how students from her son’s high school would crowd around the windows to see Barnes fly over in his plane.

Barnes was presumed dead a year after his final mission on Dec. 5, 1944, when he did not return to his base in England. A headstone was made for the fighter pilot at GAR Cemetery declaring him missing in action.

“I’m glad they put that headstone there, 60 or 70 years ago,” Fossum said.

Barnes, a West Point Cadet, was married just before leaving for Europe but investigators could not find what happened to her. The couple did not have children.

Information from: Argus Leader,

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