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WWII fighter pilot honored, memorialized

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Photo above: Cadets from the Low Country Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol served as pallbearers for World War II veteran, Flying Ace Capt. Albert Schlegel, who was memorialized and laid to rest in the Beaufort National Cemetery. Photo provided.

Staff reports

After 70 years of being buried in a grave marked only as X-73 in Europe, a fighter pilot has come home and finally been laid to rest in Beaufort.

Capt. Albert Schlegel, an ace pilot with the Mighty Eighth Air Force during World War II, was memorialized and buried in the Beaufort National Cemetery recently.

The Cleveland native was declared killed in action after flying a mission over France; he was 25 when he died. Schlegel’s remains were buried in an American cemetery in France, unidentified until recently. Family members believed he was killed in action as reported. However, the truth unveiled a much more sinister story: Schlegel was executed.

On Aug. 28, 1944, Schlegel was flying his P-51D with his squadron over France when he was shot down. When he was spotted parachuting to the ground, he was captured and executed by the Germans.

He was buried for more than 70 years before forensic anthropologists identified the body as that of Schlegel.

The flag-draped coffin holding the remains arrived at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth in Pooler on March 29 in a gray hearse, escorted by Patriot Guard riders.

As the guests awaited the arrival of Col. Perry Nuhn (Ret., USAF), nephew of Schlegel and the only relative to remember him personally, cadets from the Low Country Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol stepped into formation and assumed their duties as ceremonial guardsmen over the coffin. 

The six cadets escorted the coffin into the Chapel of the Fallen Eagles, where they stood guard in rotating pairs until the start of the memorial service.

During the service, Schlegel was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously, and attendees were provided with a eulogy of the life and air exploits of Schlegel. 

Following the memorial, the body was escorted by the Civil Air Patrol Honor Guard cadets, who remained motionless and at attention for 26 minutes while awaiting a flyover with a lone P-51 followed by a flyover of 4 F-15s in the Missing Man Formation.

Schlegel’s body was then escorted to Beaufort on March 30, where he was buried in the Beaufort National Cemetery.  

The ceremony included an Army Honor Guard, remarks by Nuhn, a flag-folding ceremony and 21-gun salute.

The Low Country Civil Air Patrol cadets who served as pallbearers wore a unique Honor Guard uniform with an ascot, officer’s cap and gloves when they handled the casket of Capt. Schlegel. Photo provided.
The Low Country Civil Air Patrol cadets who served as pallbearers wore a unique Honor Guard uniform with an ascot, officer’s cap and gloves when they handled the casket of Capt. Schlegel. Photo provided.
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