CHICAGO (CBS) — A World War Two bomber pilot survived a major crash during the war, but a fellow service member on-board did not.
Now decades later, as CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reports, a piece of him still lives.
Robert M. Kelliher was a pilot of the WWII bombardment group when his plane went down in the South of Italy.
“I wouldn’t say lucky, I would say blessed,” Kelliher said of surviving the impact of the crash. He says, however, that Navigator Donald Williams did not survive. “I lost one of my guys.”
Anne Kelliher, Robert Kelliher’s daughter, was going through her dad’s memorabilia from the war when she came across one item that stood out.
Among the scrapbooks and pictures in their father’s basement, siblings Anne and Dan Kelliher found a stop watch. They knew it wasn’t their dad’s.
“We felt it was hung onto for that long that it deserves attention,” said Anne.
With a name tag attached to it, the stop watch was the start of a new mission for the military family.
“We’ve got to find the family,” stated Dan.
The Killiher’s first stop on their mission was to a cemetery in Ohio.
“He just picked up and drove there,” said Anne. “I was more interested in who was buried next to him because I thought that would give me a clue family-wise.”
The watch belonged to Donald Williams.
“I’m surprised it hadn’t been more damaged by the fire,” said Robert.
The navigator killed in the 1945 plane crash proves time, and even the watch of a fallen friend, doesn’t heal all wounds; but maybe through a timepiece, the memory of Donald Williams will never die.
“I have mixed emotions about whether it’s waking old sorrows or whether it’s a case of fond memories of what might’ve been,” said Robert.
Robert revisited the crash site a few days later and picked up the watch amongst the debris, but at the time, didn’t know who the watch belonged to.
Robert’s family was able to locate relatives of Donald Williams and plan on giving them the watch during a reunion in the fall.