Layton Man Finds WWII Hero’s Wreckage Through Declassified Records

Nov 11, 2019, 12:59 PM | Updated: 11:15 pm

LAYTON, Utah – Second Lieutenant George Wilson crashed in his B-17 somewhere over France, during World War II. Very little was known about the whereabouts of him or the wreckage, until family members started looking.

For decades, pictures, letters, and an old Army Air Force uniform was about all family members had to remember George “Frankie” Wilson.

Sonni Bornemeier only heard very little in stories, while she was growing up, of the man who was her grandmother’s brother.

“It was, ‘Grandma had a brother (who) died in World War II,'” Bornemeier said. “(He) was a pilot, didn’t even know the type of plane, and crashed, but was able to keep the crew in the air long enough that they all survived, except for him.”

Aside from that, Bornemeier said her family didn’t say much about Uncle George. That all changed recently.

On Memorial Day 2018, Sonni, and her husband, Erik Bornemeier, decided to start looking for answers. The first came in a declassified document detailing Wilson’s crash.

“This was a really good starting point for our research,” Erik said. “It gave us the crew. It gave us the destination. It gave us the objective and the area.”

An Air National Guard reservist who also serves as the commander of Davis County’s Search and Rescue team, Erik said while crew accounts were somewhat spotty, as most of them spent time as prisoners of war, they learned much more about Wilson’s bravery.

The B-17 crew of nine were on their third mission. A tenth crew member, the tail-gunner, was sick and didn’t come along. They were heading to bomb German-occupied sites in northern France.

“About two minutes from bomb drop, they encountered a ton of flak,” Erik said, explaining that Wilson as the pilot, was injured. “Everybody was able to bail out because Frankie kept the plane up, and he did circles to get everybody out, and then just went down with the plane.”

The story, along with some maps of their mission, gave Erik Bornemeier a starting point for his search.

He used the information to pinpoint a likely town where the plane went down: Monchy Cayeux.

Through a search online, he was able to get the help of a reporter there who put him in touch with townspeople who had more information. Bornemeier said some were grateful for Wilson’s efforts in keeping the plane from crashing into the town, instead crashing into a nearby farmer’s field.

During his first trip to the area in July 2018, Bornemeier said several townspeople helped him look for the crash site, including one who had a metal detector. Within that first day, they found the wreckage.

“Within this first look, I got propeller blades. I got plexiglass. I got 50 (caliber) bullets,” Bornemeier said. “I’ve got all the things that say, ‘B-17,’ or could be found on a B-17.”

Townspeople also helped him find a living witness to the crash.

A year later, Erik’s findings have since been validated by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA – the US government agency tasked with finding those who went missing during wartime.

“What started out as just a fact-finding information about our loved one has turned into more of a recovery now, of a possible recovery,” Bornemeier said.

Sonni Bornemeier said the result has made a major impact on her family.

“It’s overwhelming and emotional, and it’s actually brought the family together again,” Sonni said. “Everyone that was closest to him, it feels like they’re wanting this (story) told, too.”

Erik Bornemeier still has yet to find the remains of 2nd Lt. George “Frankie” Wilson, but said he has some good leads that he intends to follow up on during a trip this November.

“I feel like I’ve completed the mission already, but it’s the last chapter that we’re on,” Bornemeier said.

He said the DPAA will send their own recovery mission within about two years, but he’d like to see a local excavation crew, made up of volunteers and companies, willing to donate the time and money.

“This is a Utah story, and I would love for it to be a Utah effort to be able to go back and bring Frankie home,” Bornemeier said. “He’s a true hero.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

(KSL TV)...
Casey Scott, KSL TV

#walkTODAY Wednesday with Casey Scott at Daybreak

Casey Scott was out walking Wednesday morning in Daybreak along with producer Sam from 103.5 FM The Arrow as part of our 30-day #walkTODAY challenge.
12 hours ago
Andrew Adams

Family members remember Utah woman killed in Idaho crash

Family members on Tuesday were remembering a Utah woman killed in a weekend crash that also left her father critically injured. 
1 day ago
Utah Rep. Burgess Owens. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)...

All 4 Utah House incumbents win GOP primaries

All four members of the U.S. House from Utah defeated Republican primary challengers Tuesday.
1 day ago
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) leaves the U.S. Capitol on April 25, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Senate r...

Sen. Mike Lee fends off 2 opponents to win Utah GOP primary

Sen. Mike Lee has won Utah’s Republican primary by fending off attacks from two challengers who didn’t vote for former President Donald Trump in 2020.
1 day ago
The suspect of a bank robbery at Brighton Bank in South Salt Lake. (Credit: South Salt Lake Police)...
Michael Houck

South Salt Lake police search for bank robbery suspect

South Salt Lake police are searching for a suspect involved in a bank robbery that happened Tuesday,
1 day ago
Michael Carpenter (left) and Blake Shumway (right) were killed in a plane crash Friday morning in C...
Alex Cabrero

Family members remember, honor two USU plane crash victims

Family members of Michael Carpenter and Blake Shumway — who were killed in a plane crash Friday morning in Cache County — say they never thought a week ago that they would be planning funerals.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Layton Man Finds WWII Hero’s Wreckage Through Declassified Records