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After 77 years, remains of Washington army pilot killed in World War II identified

Lt. Eugene P. Shauvin from Spokane was killed while on a journey to the Netherlands to drop 11 Pathfinder paratroopers in 1944.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) says it has identified the remains of a Spokane pilot killed during World War II.

U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Eugene P. Shauvin was one of nine people killed in Belgium in 1944 during his journey to the Netherlands to drop 11 Pathfinder paratroopers ahead of Operation Market Garden. He was only 25 at the time.

Shauvin was piloting a C-47 Skytrain aircraft that was shot down over Belgium. All four crew members, including Shauvin, and the other five paratroopers died in the crash.

According to a statement by the DPAA, the plane crashed near the villages of Retie and Kortijnen, and only six paratroopers successfully bailed out. All four plane crew members, including Shauvin, and the other five paratroopers, died in the crash.

Days later, eight bodies were recovered from the crash by residents who buried them in a nearby common grave. On Sept. 25 of that year, the Belgian Red Cross exhumed the remains from the common grave and reinterred them in the Retie village cemetery after German forces left the area on Sept. 23.

In 1951, all the remains were identified except for Shauvin, whose body was declared non-recoverable. 

Some efforts to recover Shauvin's remains were made in 1999 after his daughter, Linda Chauvin, contacted the DPAA agency and provided evidence that her father’s remains might still be found at the crash site. 

In 2002, an investigation was opened and a recovery team were sent to Belgium to recover the body. Despite the team locating the cockpit, they couldn't find Shauvin's remains, and further excavation was ended.

Linda requested DPAA reconsider the decision not to excavate further in 2016. After assessing the 2003 reports, DPAA determined there was sufficient evidence to support additional excavation work at the site.

U.S. officials started a series of negotiations with host-nation authorities to access the site in 2019. They sent a recovery team to Belgium in 2021.

After two months of excavation and search at the site, the team found human remains and possible life support equipment. After anthropological and DNA analysis, DPAA was able to confirm that the remains found belong to Shauvin.

Shauvin will be buried in July 2022 in his Spokane.

Shauvin’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margraten, Netherlands, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.