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WWII pilot identified 8 decades later; Central Coast nephew helped with DNA match

Posted at 9:56 AM, Feb 20, 2023

An Army Air Forces airman has been identified nearly 80 years after being shot down and killed in 1944 during World War II in Germany. One of the pilot’s nephews lives right here on the Central Coast. KSBY sat down with John Keith Stocksdale of Pismo Beach to learn about his family’s journey to find their Uncle Carl.

“It gives me goosebumps every time I talk about this,” said John Keith Stocksdale, a Vietnam Navy veteran, who grew up in Lima, Ohio.

Stocksdale never had the chance to meet his uncle, First Lieutenant Carl D. Nesbitt.

“My uncle was in a B-17 over Germany, and he got shot down. It was my Uncle Carl and his copilot. They went down, and they died,” said Stocksdale. “I've been working with the government trying to figure out where he went down. They sent me his whole military file, so I had that, they just didn't know where he went down.”

Five soldiers who were on the bombing mission to strike an aircraft factory in Leipzig, Germany when it was hit by enemy fire survived, but Carl’s remains were never found. Much to his surprise just last month, John received a call from a newspaper writer for The Lima News.

“She said, ‘Did you have an Uncle Carl?’ I said, ‘Yes, I did.’ She said, ‘Well, they have located his remains,’” recalled Stocksdale of his phone conversation with the writer.

After nearly eight decades missing, Carl is back on American soil.

“I'm just ecstatic. After all these years, we finally found his remains,” said Stocksdale.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency continues its search for missing personnel from past conflicts (more than 72,000 Americans remain missing from WWII alone). In 2019, the organization, along with help from History Flight, Inc., excavated the crash site of Carl Nesbitt’s downed plane and found remnants of human remains. Stocksdale had already provided a DNA swab as a family reference sample, and in September 2022, they analyzed Stocksdale’s DNA with the remains found.

They happened to be a match. For never having met his uncle, Stocksdale says he feels a sense of closeness.

“Of course, of course. Because of that painting that was in my mother's house all of those years. And then it was in my house,” said Stocksdale regarding a painting of Carl sitting next to him on his couch.

Stocksdale is the son of his late parents, John Donald, a World War II glider pilot, and one of his Uncle Carl’s sisters, Sharlene, better known as Pinky. Carl’s other sister, Marciel, currently lives in Pennsylvania, where a memorial service will be held in May. Stocksdale tells KSBY he plans to attend.

“My mother’s sister, Marciel, is going to be 94 next month. She's the one that the services are for,” said Stocksdale.

Eight decades in the making, the First Lieutenant will be honored for his ultimate sacrifice.

“I’m going to have more chills than I have now,” said Stocksdale.

An American flag will be presented to Marciel, along with a 21-gun salute, at the ceremony set for May 15th at a cemetery in Annville, Pennsylvania.