After 77 Years Lost at Sea, This Mainer Who Fought in World War II Is Escorted Home
He died approximately 3,821 miles away from the town where he grew up and now 77 years later he's finally come home.
During World War II, Second Lieutenant Ernest N. Vienneau of the U.S. Army and from Millinocket, Maine, was co-piloting a B-17 "flying fortress" bomber as the crew flew a mission over the Adriatic Sea on November 6th, 1944, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
The plane took heavy fire from anti-aircraft guns and the then 25-year-old Lieutenant Vienneau was killed where he sat right there in the cockpit of the bomber. The pilot would eventually ditch the plane in very deep water somewhere off the coast of Vis Island, Croatia.
The crew was able to escape the wreckage before the plane sank to the bottom of the sea, leaving the body of Mr. Vienneau behind. After several searches that produced nothing, the Army told Vienneau's parents back in Millinocket that the one-time mill worker was "lost at sea."
It was there and within that plane that the remains of Lt. Ernest N. Vienneau sat until their and the bomber's discovery in September of 2016 when a diving crew was finally able to pinpoint the wreckage and was able to make its way down to the ocean floor.
According to CatersNews.com, Steve Jones, from Aberdare, South Wales, was one of the divers and reported back, "The aircraft was in such remarkable condition, it was as if it had just landed." The diving crew could definitely tell from the plane's condition that the surviving pilot had made a skilled landing.
“The dive was a solemn experience as we knew Ernest’s remains were on board", Mr. Jones told the new site.
Ernest N. Vienneau was one of 12 children born to the family in Millinocket. His brother Robert who is now 76 and lives in Boston said that “Ernest died in 1944 when the oldest of us were infants."
The family has requested that if divers were to ever return to the wreckage site that they leave flowers on the co-pilot's seat where Ernest had sat.
This past Saturday a Maine State Police Honor Guard escorted Mr. Vienneau home for the final time, and his burial in Millinocket is scheduled for October 9th.