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American airmen missing from World War II, Vietnam identified

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FILE: A bugler plays 'Taps' during the 2009 funeral for Army Spc. Stephen Mace at Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert E. Pietsch, Maj. Louis F. Guillermin, and Army Air Force 1st Lt. Robert G. Fenstermacher will be buried at Arlington. (AP)

The remains of three Pennsylvania airmen missing from the Vietnam War and World War II have been identified are being returned to their families for burial, the Department of Defense said Friday.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert E. Pietsch, of Pittsburgh and Maj. Louis F. Guillermin of West Chester crashed in Laos in April 1968 during an armed reconnaissance mission aboard an A-26A. Pietsch was 31 and Guillermin 26 at the time, the DOD said. They were declared Missing in Action.

According to the Vietnam Veterans of America, the mission was scheduled to be Pietsch's last before transfer to a desk job, and it was Guillermin's second tour of duty. The crash site was found in 1994, but couldn't be fully surveyed because of unexploded ordinance. Another team cleared the site and gathered remains in 2006.

Army Air Force 1st Lt. Robert G. Fenstermacher, of Scranton, was a P-47D pilot who crashed in Belgium in December 1944 during an armed-reconnaissance mission against targets in Germany. He was 23.

Fenstermacher was declared Killed in Action but his remains could not immediately be recovered after the crash. Following the war, the U.S. Army interviewed a local Belgian woman who said an aircraft crashed into the side of her house, but the crash site couldn't be located. In 2012 a group of local historians excavated a private yard in Petergensfeld, Belgium, recovering human remains that were identified as Fenstermacher's.

Guillermin's remains were buried Oct. 5 in Broomall, near Philadelphia, and a joint ceremony with Pietsch will be held on Oct. 16 at Arlington National Cemetery.

A Chester County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America was named after Guillermin. According to that group he was the only child of Wister and Myrtle Booker Guillermin. They are deceased, but Guillermin is survived by his widow, Donna Stoyko.

Stoyko told the (West Chester) Daily Local News that while her husband was listed as missing in action, she didn’t anticipate her husband's return his comrades had said there were no parachutes sighted and the fire was "horrendous."

“He’ll always be there,” Stoyko said. “You don’t have a hole in your heart. You just have a space that’s empty. It’s like a puzzle piece missing. It will always be there. For me, it’s like closing a chapter that’s been ongoing for 45 years. Now it can be closed. The rest of my life goes on.”

Fenstermacher will be buried on Oct. 18 at Arlington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here for more from the Daily Local News.

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