73 years later, North Carolina WWII pilot is finally coming home

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The body of Capt. Fulton P. Lanier is finally returning home.

The body of Capt. Fulton P. Lanier is finally returning home.

Lanier, of Buies Creek, North Carolina, was officially declared missing in action as of January 31, 1944, after the C-87 he was piloting with a crew of four other U.S. Army Air Corps crew members went missing after taking off from Kunming, China.

The World War II cargo plane was never seen or heard from after departing from Kunming for Jorhat, India. The U.S. Army issued a Finding of Death in January 1946.

In December 1993 and September 1994, a team from China and the United States led to the recovery of the plane's wreckage and remains of the crew that crashed into a glacier in Tibet.

Material evidence and remains were turned over to the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii/Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. This led to a group identification, followed by a burial of the other four crew members at Arlington National Cemetery in January 1998.

In August 2015, a Chinese newspaper noted that remains were recovered at a site in Tibet. Advanced DNA testing was conducted and remains were positively identified as those of Capt. Fulton P. Lanier, U.S. Army Air Corps.

The family said the pilot loved sports, especially football.

On Tuesday afternoon, a ceremony at Raleigh Durham International Airport was held for the fallen World War II pilot.

His family said they're just happy that he's finally home.

"It means so much to my family to be able to bring our loved one home, to bring him back to her and in county soil, to bury him with his mother and father," Lanier's nephew Franklin Fulton Lanier said. "I think they always thought he would come back home and today's the day."

While the family is happy, Lanier said he knows it's tough for other families to still have so many unanswered questions.

"(I feel) a lot of love, a lot of gratefulness, a touch of sadness; when I know there are other families who have missing people, missing soldiers that they haven't gotten back and we think about that as a family we stand here haven gotten our soldier back."

The family will receive friends at O'Quinn-Peebles-Phillips Funeral Home in Lillington on Thursday, from 2:00-2:45 p.m.

A graveside service with full military honors will be held at 3 p.m. as well as the presentation of Lanier's military awards and medals to his niece, Virginia Lanier Powers, at Harnett Memorial Park in Lillington.
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