Sixty-five years after an ill-fated mission in the South Pacific, Arthur Carl Miller is coming home.
Miller, who was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, enlisted in the Navy in 1938.
In 1944, he was a radioman on a Navy plane based on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. The plane was shot down and lost Sept. 13, 1944.
And on Nov. 7, just in time for Veterans Day, his remains will be given full military honors in burial ceremonies at Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery.
The journey from the jungles of the Palau Islands back to Poughkeepsie has been a circuitous one. And it never would have happened, his family members said last week, without the help of a private group of veterans and their families called Bent Prop.
The group, founded in California, funds expeditions to the South Pacific, where the bones of thousands of U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen remain on small islands and in the shallow waters surrounding them.
Shortly after the end of World War II, a body recovered from the island of Peleilu was misidentified as that of another Navy airman. But thanks to records kept by Bent Prop volunteers, who located the bullet-riddled TBM Avenger that Miller had been flying in when he was shot down, naval officials were able to determine that the remains belonged to Miller.
The young Navy airman's homecoming is particularly poignant, his family members said, because he never met his only son, 65-year-old Town of Poughkeepsie resident Arthur Miller, who was born three months after his father's plane was shot down.
As he sat in his living room last week, Miller said he could not describe his emotions as he waited for the day his father would finally come home.
"It took me my whole life to learn about my father," Miller said, "and after 65 years, I can finally lay him to rest."
Miller said he would always be grateful to the volunteers at Bent Prop, not only for what they had done for him, but for all the other families who are learning for the first time exactly what happened to their loved ones.
"Bent Prop is doing a great service to bring closure to families like mine who hadn't had it for all these years," he said.
The last leg of Arthur Carl Miller's journey will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with a procession, escorted by Dutchess County sheriff's deputies, from the Arlington Veterans Memorial in the Town of Poughkeepsie to Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery.
The slain airman's nephew, Clintondale resident Thomas Miller, said the entire family would be there to say goodbye.
"It is a comfort to know that our uncle, who made the supreme sacrifice in World War II, is finally coming home after all these years of uncertainty to be laid to rest with his family," he said.