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Wayne Co. memorial to honor WWII bomber crew, community

A worker puts the final touches on a monument telling the story of the ill-fated flight and the recovery efforts.

LOA, Utah — People are expected to travel from as far away as Maine, to Loa, in Wayne County, Monday, to honor a story that may be little remembered as part of the loss of World War II. But to the community and the family of six airmen who died when their plane broke apart over Wayne County, what happened is strong in their memories.

Loa Town Center where memorial will be placed

Loa Town Center, where memorial will be placed

The plane, a Lockheed AT-18A was on a training mission from Northern California to Colorado Springs on July 14, 1943, when it disappeared.

“The last transmission was over Millard, Utah, around 9 a.m.,” said Paul Pace, who has researched the flight. “Said they were flying over a storm,” Pace said.

Three months later, a group of cowboys was trailing some cattle from their winter range on the Fish Lake mountains, into an area east of what is now Capitol Reef National Park, when they started to see the debris. Liz Brown Pace, who is married to Paul Pace, is the granddaughter of one of those cowboys, LaVor Brown.

Photo Courtesy U.S. Army

Photo Courtesy U.S. Army

“He was quite emotional as he told us the story about finding the airplane,” Pace said.

As the story goes, LaVor rode dozens of miles back to one of two places in the county where there was a telephone.

“He wanted to, of course, get back and notify the authorities,” said Paul Pace, “But his response to me was how sorry he felt for the families of the boys.”

Photo Courtesy U.S. Army

Photo Courtesy U.S. Army

The area is so remote, it took two days for a military contingent, and a number of volunteers to reach the site and recover the bodies. Much of the wreckage was buried on site. But the memories have not been buried.

Photo Courtesy Debra Young

Photo Courtesy Debra Young

In 2014, a relative of LaVor Brown, Kade Brown, started floating the idea of building a monument to those involved. On Monday, that monument will be unveiled with a military ceremony, including an Air Force flyover. It will become part of a memorial already in place for those from Wayne County, who have served and sacrificed.

Stables is moved by the community’s gesture. Several of her children also plan to attend. She said although her mother remarried and although she never really knew her father, his death did leave what she called a dark shadow, one her mother could barely bring herself to talk about.

“You know we’re a very tight-knit community,” said Paul Pace. “And even though they were strangers to us, they are now part of us. That’s part of our history,” he said.