PRESTONSBURG — After 69 years, Charles Robert Marshall is coming home.
On July 21, 1944, Marshall, the father of the then-1-year-old R.D. “Doc” Marshall, who is now Floyd County judge-executive, was a 19-year-old Army Air Force sergeant from Martin, flying aboard a B-24H Liberator aircraft that was going on a bombing run over Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. The plane never reached its target.
The plane carrying Marshall and eight other servicemen encountered German fighter plans and was shot down, still carrying its full payload. Six crew member parachuted to safety. The remains of another were found near Hadorf.
As for the other two, including Marshall, nothing was ever known. And thus it seemed that history had conspired to leave Marshall’s story without an ending, without closure for his son and widow back home in Floyd County.
Until last year.
The past finally began to give up its secrets regarding Marshall’s fate in 2009, through the personage of Markus Mooser. A German naturalist, Mooser was scavenging the forest for mushrooms, when he stumbled across pieces of metal. Investigating further, he also found human remains. He notified authorities and his find was delivered to the U.S. military.
The area was excavated until all remains were discovered, including a set of dogtags and a bracelet inscribed with the name, “Dixie” — the same first name as that of Marshall’s widow.
“My dad have given mother an ID bracelet that had ‘Dixie’ and had ‘Bob’ written on it,” Judge Marshall said. “Well, the part that they found was still laying on the bone, and it was shattered, but it had ‘Dixie’ on it.”
Last year, Judge Marshall and a great uncle provided DNA samples, in hopes of obtaining a positive identification. Earlier this year, the match was confirmed.
“You know, I’ve been asked, ‘What does it mean to you, for this to be happening?’” Judge Marshall said. “Well, it means everything, because it’s filling in the answers to questions we never knew. It’s sort of like when you see something in the movies just go ‘blip,’ go off the radar.”
Now, all that remains is to give Marshall the hero’s burial he was never able to have. Today, Judge Marshall and his mother, Dixie Hyden, will travel to Cincinnati to greet the arrival of Sgt. Marshall’s remains.
Judge Marshall says he is happy to see the story finally have an ending.
“It’s going to be an emotional time …” Marshall said. “You know, 69 years ago, it was a horrible time. But now it’s more of a rejoicing, good time, of being able to have some questions answered and brought back.”
On Friday, at 7 p.m., a memorial service with full miltary honors will be conducted at Hall Funeral Home, in Martin. Burial will take place the following day, at 11 a.m., with the Rev. Arnold Turner and the Rev. Mark Tackett officiating.