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Utah veteran works to bring home WWII soldier lost at sea after possible aircraft discovered

May 30, 2022, 8:00 PM | Updated: May 31, 2022, 11:37 am

On the day set aside to remember those who served, and those close to us, Troy Burnett is honoring someone he’s never met.

Troy Burnett is a retired Ogden police officer and a veteran, and he says the story of Lt. Thomas Ira Warburton, who went by Ira, really struck a chord with him.

“Yeah I’ll be honest with you — I’ll probably get choked up, but he’s a hero,” Burnett said.

The reason is Warburton chose to go down with the plane, rather than leave a crewmate behind.

Burnett helps tell the stories of World War II veterans through “Stories Behind the Stars” — a website and organization run by volunteers that have shared the stories of hundreds of thousands of veterans.

Through declassified documents, Burnett learned that Warburton’s plane, the Grim Reaper, was struck by a German anti-aircraft shell over the Adriatic Sea.

Several crewmen were able to parachute out and survive, but Warburton discovered his gunner could not get his parachute harness attached.

Rather than leave, Ira and three others decided to stay behind and apparently try to land the plane in the ocean.

“That millisecond over the Adriatic, where he just decided to stay to help his crewmen, that’s pretty heroic in my book,” Burnett said. “I think that Ira deserves…he’s earned the right to be home, you know?”

And now, he may get that chance.

Doctor Fabio Bisciotti reached out to Burnett while searching online for information about the Grim Reaper.

He and his dive team have become known for finding several World War II vessels.

“We have found his tail or stern I want to say,” Bisciotti said. “This wreck, it is exactly at 2-hundred and fifty degrees and totally en route to Tortorella Air Base.”

The location would be right along the path Warburton was taking.

“It was my duty, my personal duty to say to these people that maybe I found their airplane,” Bisciotti said.

Now Burnett is hopeful Warburton’s family can hear about this discovery too and get him a proper resting place.

“I hope he comes home,” Burnett said.

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Utah veteran works to bring home WWII soldier lost at sea after possible aircraft discovered