The body of legendary US pilot James B. McGovern Jr., known to his friends as “Earthquake McGoon”, will be transported back to US soil for a military funeral later this week bringing closure for his friends and family who have waited patiently for this day to arrive for over 50 years. The pilot first got his start in WWII as a fighter pilot with the Chinese air force unit made up of American volunteers. He then signed on with Civil Air Transport or CAT which worked for Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalist regime. After the war, the unit was secretly acquired by the CIA until eventually the CAT was turned into Air America, the CIA run airline that ran missions in Laos and Vietnam during the war there. He was given the nickname “Earthquake McGoon” after a character from Lil Abner by an American who owned a bar in China.

McGovern was killed in duty on May 6, 1954 when he was hit by ground fire while delivering a howitzer to a French garrison that was in a tense battle at Dien Bien Phu. Despite pressure, no formal search for his crash was ever conducted but in 1997 an American MIA team stumbled across the propeller of a C-119, the same type of plane that McGovern was piloting when he crashed, and images revealed possible grave sites. In 2002, his body was excavated and on September 11th, his remains were positively identified. As a Purple Heart recipient, McGovern qualified for burial at Arlington National Cemetery but instead his family is giving him a military funeral in New Jersey so that he can be buried next to his brother. When asked why by the press, his nephew James McGovern III simply said “All those years were enough of a separation,”

Legendary pilot ‘Earthquake McGoon’ heads home (CNN)

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