77 years after he was shot down over Germany, remains of WWII pilot return to his LA hometown

The remains of a World War II pilot and native Angeleno returned to his hometown on Wednesday evening, Aug. 25, 77 years after his plane was shot down over a German battlefield.

The long-searched-for remains of U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Ernest L. Roth arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday evening, according to Laura Herzog, founder and executive director of Honoring Our Fallen.

U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Ernest L. Roth

A procession carrying Roth’s remains traveled south on Sepulveda Boulevard from LAX, east on the Century (105) Freeway, north on the San Diego (405) Freeway, east on Wilshire Boulevard and south on Glendon Avenue, eventually arriving at Pierce Brothers Mortuary in Westwood Village.

The Honoring Our Fallen group, which helped coordinate the return, asked the public to help show gratitude by lining the route with flags to honor Roth.

At the mortuary, L.A. City firefighters welcomed the procession with a row of salutes.

Two of Roth’s cousins — sisters Leontine Rose and Roberta Finkle — attended the procession with 10 relatives, representing three generations of the family.

Roth’s remains were taken to a room in the mortuary where family members held a small, private gathering, officials said.

A private funeral for Roth is planned Friday in his hometown of L.A., at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Roth was killed in while piloting a bomber plane over Berlin, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a federal agency that recovers military personnel who were either prisoners of war or missing in action.

He was 20 years old.

According to the DPPA, Roth was a pilot with the 359th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force in Europe. His plane went down in Berlin on May 19, 1944 during a bombing run.

Roth’s bomber, carrying a crew of 10 people, was hit by antiaircraft fire and crashed. Six of the 10 crew members were killed, including Roth.

The rest of the members of the crew were captured and became prisoners of war, officials said.

Roth’s body was reportedly buried by German forces in a cemetery named Döberitz, the DPPA report explained, but his body could not be found.

One Germany became accessible after the war, the American Graves Registration Command, a service that works to recover missing American soldiers, found several remains of American soldiers in that cemetery, but found one body it called “X-4801 Neuville” because it could not be positively identified, the DPPA report explained.

In June 2018, the Department of Defense and the American Battle Monuments Commission exhumed X-4801 Neuville and transferred the remains to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

Scientists from the DPPA used “anthropological analysis” and “circumstantial evidence,” while scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner system used mitochondrial DNA analysis to at last identify X-4801 Neuville as Ernest Roth.

Thus, Roth’s remains were officially accounted for on Feb. 4, 2020.

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