By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
The U.S. Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) has announced that the remains of U.S. serviceman Sgt. Jerome E. Kiger, lost in World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
After 69 years, Army Air Force Sgt. Jerome E. Kiger, of Mannington, will be buried Sunday in Mannington Memorial Park.
On July 21, 1944, a B-24H Liberator aircraft, which carried nine crew members, including Kiger, was shot down and crashed while on a bombing raid against enemy targets in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Of the nine crew members, six parachuted to safety; a seventh crewman’s remains were recovered near Hadorf. Kiger and another crewman were not recovered. Attempts to recover their remains after the war were unsuccessful.
In 2009, Marcus Mooser, a German national, turned over human remains to a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) investigating team that was in southern Germany. Mooser recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage from the crash site southwest of Munich.
In 2012, a JPAC recovery team excavated the suspected crash site southwest of Munich, locating additional human remains and aircraft wreckage. To identify the remains of Kiger, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools such as dental comparisons and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Kiger’s sister and niece.
Sgt. Kiger was born Dec. 26, 1921, the first born of the late Jasper N. and Mary Pearl Kiger. He attended Rymer Grade School and graduated from Mannington High School in 1939. Prior to enlisting in the Army Air Service, he was employed at the Westinghouse Corp. He was a proud soldier with great love for his family, his friends and his country.
He is survived by two sisters, Eva Lou Kiger Hinerman of Fairmont, and Mary Kathryn “Kitty” Kiger Lewis and her husband Thomas L. Lewis of Murrysville, Pa. A sister and brother-in-law, Arlene and Ralph D. Bradley of Bridgeport, a brother, Gerald M. Kiger of Mannington, and a brother-in-law, John Reid Hinerman of Fairmont, are deceased.
He is also survived by a sister-in-law, Janis Kiger of Mannington; and nieces and nephews, Terry Ann Bradley Glover of New Martinsville, Donna Reid Hinerman Renner of Fairmont, Brenda Lois Kiger Laughlin of Woodlawn, Ill., Jerome “Jerry” Kiger of Mannington, Kelly Ray Hinerman of Grapevine, Texas, Thomas L. Lewis Jr. of Augusta, Ga., Kathryn Lewis Zatezalo of Delmont, Pa., and Jeffrey L. Kiger of Mannington. Also surviving are 14 great- and nine great-great-nieces and -nephews.
On Thursday, Sgt. Kiger’s remains will be escorted onto United States soil by an Honor Guard from Fort Meade, Md., who will perform planeside military honors at Pittsburgh International Airport. The West Virginia Patriot Guard Riders, the Pennsylvania Patriot Riders, Patriot Riders from other states and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association will stand in his honor, and with his family, will escort Sgt. Kiger home to Mannington.
On Sunday, July 21, the 69th anniversary of Sgt. Kiger’s death, a procession of family, friends, veterans, members of the military and representatives of the government will accompany the remains of Sgt. Kiger from Hutson Funeral Home in Mannington to Mannington Memorial Park. He will be interred between the graves of his father and mother, in a designated gravesite prepared for him by his parents prior to their deaths.
Sgt. Kiger will be laid to rest with full military honors and ceremonies performed by the West Virginia Honor Guard from Camp Dawson.
In attendance at the military services with the Kiger family will be Mr. Markus Mooser, the German national who discovered the crash site and metal from the B24 Liberator airplane. Based on Mr. Mooser’s discovery, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Plans (JPAC) investigated the site, remains were recovered and the identity of Sgt. Kiger was confirmed. He will travel from Germany to stand with the family in honor of Sgt. Kiger.
The Kiger family wishes to honor all veterans by extending an invitation to participate in the burial procession. Automobile lineup will begin at 1 p.m. at Hutson Funeral Home in Mannington.
The governor has ordered all federal and state flags to be displayed at half-staff from dawn to dusk Sunday, July 21, the day of interment services.
Arrangements are under the direction of U.S. Army Sgt. John Oliverio and Hutson Funeral Home, 500 E. Main St., Mannington. Online condolences may be assessed at email@example.com.