News: Bringing Jackson home: Family finds remains of WWII navigator
Story by Staff Sgt. Ashley Hawkins
RAF MOLESWORTH, England - “I want someone to remember him.”
When Nancy Standard gave her 10-year old grandson, Trevor Cook, World War II medals that belonged to her cousin, 2nd Lt. Jackson Palmer Jr., she didn’t think he would know what to do with them, or even fully understand their significance.
According to Standard’s daughter, Debbie Cook, Palmer’s B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was shot down May 28, 1944. He was killed in action while assigned to the RAF Molesworth 303rd bombardment Group.
Palmer was an only child and had no children of this own. His extended family had no information about what happened.
Although Trevor was only 10 when he heard the story, he kept those medals, and his third cousin, in mind.
Years later, Trevor found himself at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England. It was there he saw Palmer’s name, along with the location of his burial site, the World War II American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten, The Netherlands.
“Jackson isn’t forgotten,” he told his mother, Debbie.
Nearly 70 years after Palmer’s death, Debbie’s determination to find out what happened to her second cousin was rekindled, due to her mother passing away.
“After mom died, I got obsessed with what happened to [Jackson],” she said. “I went online and realized all the information was out there. I thought, ‘Why didn’t we know?’ Everyone knew where he was except for the family.”
Debbie rallied her sister and brother-in-law, Pattie and Henry Morneault to discover the secret behind Palmer’s death.
Members of the Margraten Association for the Adoption of Graves compiled information about Palmer, and began asking if anyone had any information about him.
“We learned, through Margraten, that a family had created a website with Jackson’s gravestone on it,” said Debbie. “A 9-year-old boy adopted his grave, put Jackson’s information on the web site and said ‘we’re looking for the family.’ Now, that boy is 21. We’ve found him and we’re going to go meet him.”
Before the family’s date to meet their cousin’s adopted family, they contacted RAF Molesworth to gather more information about what his life may have been like.
“The family contacted our former historian Peter Park and coordinated with him on wanting to visit Molesworth in honor of their cousin,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Louie Barlolong, Joint Intelligence Operations Center, Europe Analytic Center, headquarters commandant. “They’re trying to close the loop in terms of addressing 2nd Lt. Palmer, finding out where it all began, and culminate where he was actually shot down and then buried.”
Barlolong, who volunteered to spearhead the project after Park retired, provided the family with a tour of the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Britain’s only WWII American military cemetery, seats in attendance to the Holocaust Remembrance luncheon at RAF Alconbury and a tour around RAF Molesworth.
With the information Barlolong provided, the family felt they were finally able to put the pieces together.
Henry felt that not only will the trip contribute to keeping their cousin’s memory alive, but it also will provide peace of mind.
“We’re symbolically bringing Jackson home. It’s closure for the family,” said Henry. “It’s like a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces that we’re slowly closing in on. So what we want to do is take the information back and write for our father and kids the story of Jackson and what happened to him and show how amazing these WWII stories are.”
For more information about the Association for the Adoption of Graves at the American Cemetery of Margraten, visit www.margrateneerbetoon.nl.
For information about searching for U.S. military records, visit www.Fold3.com.