ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — A World War II pilot was laid to rest in St. Petersburg on Friday, 80 years after he was declared missing in action.
When he was just 25 years old, Gilbert Myers joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. Myers joined before the Army before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. He was killed in action, flying on a combat mission over Italy in 1943. It would take more than 80 years to find his remains, identify them and bring them home.
Myers was the oldest of six children, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They moved to St. Petersburg to find new job opportunities following the stock market crash of 1929. He drove a truck for work in St. Petersburg. After joining the Army Air Corps, he learned to fly planes.
“He went off with such enthusiasm and such driven purpose,” said Jean Corey a family member who has researched Myers life and his letters home.
In one of his letters, written during the war, Myers writes: “Have a long road to travel and hope I don’t have to rest. Don’t worry, Hitler will someday know I’m up there, even if I have to leave a calling card.”
The letters are what help the family realize exactly who the young man was who went off to fight in a war.
“He talks just about the camaraderie, about losing a plane in one of the missions over North Africa, but all of his men were safe,” said Corey.
On July 10, 1943 Myers was flying in a B-25 over Italy when his plane was shot down. The U.S. Army identified the crash location in 1944, but never recovered any remains from the wreckage.
That changed in 2021 when the Defense POW MIA Accounting agency negotiated the rights with the land owners in Italy to excavate the crash.
“Just a couple of months ago they positively identified him through DNA,” said Myers’ Grand-Nephew, Doug Corey.
On Friday, Myers was buried in St. Petersburg with full military honors.
“I think bringing him back to St. Petersburg is full circle and he’s going to be buried next to his brother,” said Doug Corey.
The work to identify Myers remains and the funeral with honors are giving closure to the family, even if it took more than 80 years to happen.
“It brings you to realize that we have so much to be thankful for that we live in a country that still sets as a high purpose, bringing home and honoring everyone who serves,” said Jean Corey.