BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Beauran O'Kane left Bakersfield for World War II in 1944 and never returned home.
His parents received a letter from the U.S. Navy in 1945 that wasn’t able to explain much. Beauran was one of 12 seamen in a bomber that was hit by a fighter plane. The letter said he was believed to be dead.
“There was just so much that was kept from us. And we are not bitter about it, we just want to make sure that every effort was made to try and find the men and recover,” said Jeff O’Kane, Beauran’s great-nephew.
After decades worth of research into the plane crash believed to have killed Beauran, his family is still holding onto hope that his remains will be recovered and finally returned home.
“You can never change the fact that they are dead but it just helps you remember them I guess...to know what happened to them and to know what happened that day. And just to know that they are not forgotten.”
Over the years, they have found pictures of the moments leading up to the crash, heard testimony from people who saw the crash happened and with the help of a declassified report they have pinpointed the coordinates of where Beauran's plane likely went down.
They have taken their findings to the Department of Defense.
“I met with DPAA and brought them our 127 page research paper.”
Since last Memorial Day, the mission to recover the lost plane and seamen has been upgraded to an 'active pursuit,' but the the O'Kanes are up against thousands of other families of 72,716 WWII personnel that have yet to be recovered.
“We are not the only family….we have to just sit and wait.”
In the meantime, the O'Kanes have been able to track down other families who know their story all too well.
“We have located six families of men aboard the plane. The most recent one being the daughter of the pilot, Lieutenant Commander Howard F. Mears. She was 9 years old the day her father died. And she is 83 years old now. It was a very important person to talk to,” said Jeff.