First Lt Edward T. McGuire, a graduate of the Mount Carmel High School class of 1939 in Chicago, the United States, died Aug 1, 1943, at the age of 22 when his B-24 Liberator bomber went down near Ploiesti, Romania, during Operation Tidal Wave in World War II.
While his death was presumed when he did not make it back to the Allied base following the operation, his remains were only recovered in 2017, which began a multi-year identification process.
On Oct 28, 80 years after his death, McGuire and his family were treated to a massive military funeral in Evergreen Park. Representatives from the US Department of Defence, police and fire departments, hundreds of community members and dozens of veterans came to pay their respects.
"What the Department of Defence has put on here is a testament to how great our country is,” said McGuire’s great-nephew Mike McAuliffe of St Louis, who also attended Mount Carmel. "It has finally put closure to our family.”
Operation Tidal Wave was a flyover mission that sought to use US and British bombers, including the one piloted by McGuire, to take out German oil refineries in Romania. But several mistakes were made in the planning, according to historian Roger Miller, who documented the attack for the Air Force Historical Support Division.
The most glaring error was the order for the bombers to fly low over the targets – the antithesis of bombing policy, which prefers to keep bombers high and out of reach from the enemy’s defences, according to the historical division and Miller.
"The US Army Air Forces never again attempted a low level mission against German air defences,” Miller writes.
The Allied casualties from the battle stand at 310 airmen killed, 108 captured and 78 interned in Turkiye, he said.
McGuire, born April 11, 1921, was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. He is one of 58 Mount Carmel alumni who died while serving in the Second World War, according to a plaque at the school.
"We can’t afford to ever forget what all the Men of Carmel did for us, the living, and for their country so long ago,” wrote Terence Stadler, a Mount Carmel alumnus who has collected information on alumni who served. In 2020, he wrote a book about the alumni who served in the Vietnam War.
McGuire was carried in a black Cadillac hearse in a funeral procession that included service members, veterans, a shotgun salute, a police escort and hundreds of firefighters and community members lining the path.
"As I looked at those people lining the streets, waving those flags... I thought, ‘I bet a lot of their grandparents served in World War II',” said MaryLynn McGuire Clarke of Florida, one of McGuire’s nieces. "I think that it brought back the effect (of) that Greatest Generation.”
Scientists from the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used dental, anthropological analysis, circumstantial evidence, DNA and chromosome analysis to confirm McGuire’s remains.
The memorial mass was held at Most Holy Redeemer Church in Evergreen Park with burial at Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery and Mausoleum near Chicago Ridge.
"I felt obligated to be here because my dad was actually a bombardier in World War II, but he made it back,” said Evergreen Ridge resident Paul Serritella, 77. "The least I could do is come here and pay my respects.”
Community members attending were of all ages, including several dozen neighbourhood children.
"He was only 22,” said 13-year-old Mickey McManus, who was told about the funeral by one of his teachers, a great-nephew of McGuire.
Maureen McGuire Farnell of Darien and McGuire Clarke remarked about their uncle’s bravery. He volunteered not only for the war but also for the last mission he flew, McGuire Clarke said.
"My uncle was a hero among heroes,” she said. – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service