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

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage

Shopping for Valentine’s roses? 9 comparisons to help you find the biggest bang for your buck

From online and local florist delivery options to grocery store blooms, KSL’s Matt Gephardt compares the cost and durability of nine different bouquets of a dozen red roses.
23 hours ago
Ashley Moser

West Jordan mother in the ICU after being hit by snowmobile while tubing

A Utah mother is recovering in the ICU after she was hit by a snowmobile while tubing over the weekend.
23 hours ago
Lauri Markkanen #23 of the Utah Jazz reacts to a basket against the Houston Rockets during the firs...
Kyle Ireland, KSL Sports

Ryan Smith, Utah Jazz honor Lauri Markkanen for NBA All-Star selection

Ryan Smith and the Utah Jazz honored Lauri Markkanen for his first NBA All-Star selection during Utah’s game against the Dallas Mavericks.
23 hours ago
Madison Swenson

Boy hospitalized after falling from slide at Rose Springs Elementary

n 8-year-old boy is in critical but stable condition after falling from a slide at Rose Springs Elementary School.
23 hours ago
Utah State Prisoin...
Shara Park

Governor, lawmakers to address 3 inmate attacks on guards at Utah Prisons

The maximum-security unit at the Utah State Prison remained closed to visitors Monday after an inmate attacked a correctional officer on Saturday.
23 hours ago
Pat Reavy

Utah man accused of drugging woman’s tea, sexually extorting her

A Tooele County man who police say put a sleeping pill in a woman's tea without her knowledge and told her she could not stay at his residence unless she had sex with him, is facing criminal charges.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Layton Man Finds WWII Hero’s Wreckage Through Declassified Records