Skip to main content
Edit entry 

William Joseph McGowan

Military

Lt. William “Bill” J. McGowan was a pilot during World War II. The P-47 he was flying on D-Day, June 6, 1944 was shot down while on a low-level strafing and bombing mission south of the landing beaches in Normandy, France. He did not survive the crash.

Prior to joining the Army Air Corp, McGowan anticipated a career in journalism following in the footsteps of his father Joseph, then publisher and editor of the local newspaper in Benson. After graduating from the University of Missouri’s prestigious School of Journalism in September 1942, McGowan was employed by the United Press in Madison, Wisconsin. This was followed by a stint as editor of the Swift County Monitor-News, his father’s newspaper, before reporting to the Army Air Corps for training in early February, 1943.

In December, 1943, McGowan received his 2nd Lieutenant commission and pilot silver wings with the class of 43-K at Eagle Pass. He then went to Harding Field, Baton Rouge, Louisiana for further fighter pilot training in the P-47. While there he married fellow Minnesotan Suzanne Schaefer in a small ceremony at the Harding Field post chapel. In April, 1944 he was deployed with the 366th Fighter Group in England where he commenced his brief career as a “Jug” pilot with the 391st Fighter Squadron.

Lt. McGowan made ten sorties and four combat missions as part of a number of P-47 fighter sweeps over France leading up to the D-Day invasion. Although his remains were never found, his dog tags were recovered. A small memorial to Lt. McGowan continues to be maintained by the wonderful residents of the nearby village of Moon-Sur-Elle, close to the crash site. Not yet 24-years old, Lt. McGowan was posthumously awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart.
On the 5th of June, the day before the 75th anniversary of his death the Bozeman Chronicle announced "Now 75 years after D-Day, the remains of Army Air Corps Lt. William J. “Bill” McGowan have been positively identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) using DNA evidence"

Service

Units served with

  • 366th Fighter Group

    366th Fighter Group

    Group
    The Group moved in England over the New Year of 1944, setting up home first at Membury and then at Thruxton. The pilots' first mission was a fighter sweep of the French coast in March 1944 and from then until D-Day that June the ground supported Allied...

  • 391st Fighter Squadron

Aircraft

Associated Place

Events

Event Location Date
Born Benson, MN 56215, USA 26 July 1920
Died Moon-sur-Elle, צרפת 6 June 1944

Lt. William “Bill” J. McGowan was a pilot during World War II. The P-47 he was flying on D-Day, June 6, 1944 was shot down while on a low-level strafing and bombing mission south of the landing beaches in Normandy, France. He did not survive the crash.

Buried Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial 1956

Commemorated on the Wall of the Missing, Army-Army Air Forces Tablet 32, Veteran 14

Accounted for Moon Sur Elle, France 16 May 2019

In 1947, based on information provided by a French citizen, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) investigated a crash site near the village of Moon-sur-Elle that was possibly associated with McGowan’s loss. An AGRC investigator travelled to the site and learned from witnesses that the aircraft burned for more than a full day after impact and it had been embedded deeply into the ground. An AGRC team removed wreckage from the impact crater but failed to locate McGowan’s remains. As a result, on Dec. 23, 1947, his remains were declared non-recoverable.

In 2010, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC, a predecessor to DPAA) travelled to Moon-sur-Elle to interview witnesses and survey the crash site. During the survey, the team found numerous pieces of aircraft debris and recommended the site for excavation.

In July and August 2018, a team from the St. Mary’s University Forensic Aviation Archaeological Field School, located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, excavated the site at Moon-sur-Elle, under a partnership agreement with DPAA. The team recovered possible osseous material. The remains were sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.

To identify McGowan’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

The DPAA confirmed the identification of McGowan's Remains on 15 May 2019

Buried Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial 26 June 2020

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
15 January 2020 09:36:17 Emily Changes to events and place associations
Sources

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/4856380-Remains-of-missing-World-...

https://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/News-Releases/PressReleaseArticleView/...

Date Contributor Update
09 June 2019 16:13:35 RayWells Changes to biography
Sources

Information received via FB Group WWII Air War Over Europe. https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/lest-we-forget-pilot-killed-o...

Date Contributor Update
21 January 2015 12:38:45 Gilad_Bashan Changes to awards
Sources

Paul Stouffer

Date Contributor Update
21 January 2015 12:08:04 Gilad_Bashan Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, service number, highest rank, role, biography, events and unit associations
Sources

I want to thank William McGowan's nephew, Paul Stouffer, who generously provided this information. We offer this material in tribute to William J. McGowan and many other brave pilots and servicemen who fought Nazi forces in Europe.

Share