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1989 | Hildreth, Nebraska
This slide show is the story of the return of Willis F. Evers to his hometown, where he was laid to rest beside his parents, John & Lena (Buss) Evers.
Life Sketch of Willis F. Evers
May 7, 1920 | Hildreth, Nebraska
Willis F. Evers was born May 7, 1920, in Hildreth, Nebraska to John and Lena (Buss) Evers. Willis was baptized and confirmed at St. Peters Lutheran Church. He was a 1937 graduate of Hildreth High school where he was active in sports and school activities.
Willis was a fun loving man who loved adventure and riding motorcycles. It was no surprise to his family when he enlisted in the Army Calvary in 1940 at Ft. Crook. After basic training he was sent to Ft. Meade in South Dakota where he joined the motorcycle scouts.
Although Willis loved riding motorcycles his true desire was to become a pilot and when opportunity presented itself he transferred to the Army Air Corp. Willis trained to be a fighter pilot, during WWII, at Ryan Field, Hemet, CA. He learned to fly the P-38 Lightning, a plane designed and built by Lockheed. The P-38 was built for speed and fire power, dubbed by the Luftwaffe as “The Forked Tail Devil”.
After completing his pilot training he was promoted to Flight Officer and in September, 1943 was sent to join the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Squadron at Port Moresby, New Guinea to fight the Japanese. Willis joined well known Aces such as Edward “Porkey” Cragg, Alan Hill, Norb Ruff and often flew as wing man for Louis Schriber.
Willis was in New Guinea just two months before he was killed on November 2, 1943, during the battle over Rabaul, New Britain. There was fierce fighting that day, with hundreds of planes in the air and ships in Simpson Harbor. Willis was flying as wing man to Louis Schriber, he reported that Willis had made a hit on one of the Japanese Zeros, it fell in a spin into the harbor. When Schriber looked around again to find Willis he was no where in sight. Willis never reported back to base and was listed as missing in action. On December 15, 1945, his parents, received word from the War Department that all efforts to located him had been exhausted and declared him as dead.
The wreckage of Willis' plane would lay undetected for 43years. In 1986 a plantation surveyor, walking through the jungle, near the village of Ulagunan, unexpectedly discovered the wreckage of a P38-F Lighting. The plane and its contents had been undisturbed. The discovery would put an end to the mystery of what happened to F/O Willis F. Evers on November 2, 1943.
On September 15, 1989, Willis' remains were returned to his family and laid to rest next to his parents, John and Lena (Buss) Evers, at St. Peters Cemetery, Hildreth, Nebraska. Fifteen members from the 1st Infantry, Bravo Battery from Ft. Leavenworth provided military pallbearers and the gunner group for the 21-gun salute. Fourteen of Hildreth Veterans of Foreign Wars provided an honor guard. A flyover by F-4 Phantom Jets flew over the ceremony tipping their wings as a final salute to a young WWII Pilot who had finally come home.
Willis Frederick Evers enlisted in the U.S. Army at Ft. Crook, Nebraska on August 6, 1940. He was sent to Ft. Meade in South Dakota where he became part of the motorcycle scouts. He later joined the U.S. Army Air Corp and received his Silver Wings on April 12, 1943 at Williams Field, Chandler, Arizona, and was promoted to Flight Officer. Willis was trained for combat in the P-38F Lightning airplane. In September, 1943 he was sent to join the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Squadron at Port Morseby, New Guinea, to fight against the Japanese Imperial Army. On November 2, 1943, in a fierce battle over Rabaul, New Britain, his plane was shot down. He was listed as “missing in action”. On December 15, 1945, his parents, John and Lena (Buss) Evers, received word from the War Department that all efforts to locate him had been exhausted; they declared him dead.
The last time he was home was May, 1943. Willis' remains were discovered in 1986 by a surveyor and returned home in 1989. He is buried next to his parents at St. Peters Cemetery.
Willis F. Evers received the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart. He is listed on “The Tables of the Missing” at the American Cemetery in Manila, Philippines, the WWII memorial in Washington D.C, and on the Memorial Brick Wall in Franklin, Nebraska. He was also honored by the Hildreth V.F.W., which bears the name Osterbuhr, Evers and Carter V.F.W, Post 6016; all young men from Hildreth who lost their lives during WWII. May their sacrifice always be remembered.