Pike County is holding a long-delayed funeral Sunday for 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford, more than 70 years after his crew disappeared during a 1944 supply flight from China to India during the height of World War II.
Oxford, who went by the name Eugene or Gene and died at age 24, did not have a burial before now. His initial resting place was an unknown crash site in the Himalayan Mountains, according to multiple news stories, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Organizers are inviting the public to line the 8-mile funeral route Sunday afternoon with flags and yellow ribbons.
Oxford’s parents, Charles and Bessie Oxford, are no longer living, but they placed a memorial marker and reserved a burial plot at tiny Magnolia Cemetery in Concord, Ga. He will be buried there Sunday, following a 2 p.m. funeral at the Pike County School Auditorium, 7362 US Highway 19S, in Zebulon.
Well-wishers are invited to line the roadside from Highway 19 in Zebulon and along Georgia Highway 18 westward from the Courthouse in Zebulon to the center of Concord, according to the local newspaper, the Pike County Times, which has written for years about the search for Oxford’s remains.
The site of the funeral and burial are about 40 miles south of Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport between Griffin and Macon.
Oxford’s remains were found in the wreckage of his crew’s B-24J Liberator known by its nickname, “Hot as Hell,” in India's Himalayas. Its serial number was 42-73308.
The site of the Jan. 25, 1944 crash was found near Damrah in Arunchal Pradesh State by Clayton Kuhles of MIA Recoveries, which works to find crash sites in the Himalayas, according to the AJC. It. was first discovered in 2006, but exploration of the site and the discovery of the remains came much later, in 2015, finally resulting in India’s permission to return them to the United States for identification in 2016.
The remains of seven other crew members have not been found. The missing crew members will also be remembered during the funeral.
Visitation for Oxford was held Friday and Saturday at Moody-Daniel Funeral Home in Zebulon. All eight crew members from the crashed B-24J mission were included with names and photographs of each. Oxford was reported to have volunteered for the flight that crashed. He was listed as the Bombardier on the crew roster.
Family-placed obituary on AJC.com includes details on Eugene Oxford’s military training, his family and his last civilian job in Georgia, as well as details on the funeral.