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Blue Earth man part of crew buried at Arlington National Cemetery

By Staff | Sep 25, 2011

Bonnie Williams

Bonnie Williams of Blue Earth has waited a long time for some closure to the death of a father she never really knew.

Last Wednesday she was at Arlington National Cemetery for a ceremony where remains of her father, Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Christopherson, and eight of his fellow crewmen were buried in a single casket at Arlington.

The men were the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed the ‘Naughty But Nice.’ It was shot down on June 26, 1943, in Papau, New Guinea during World War II.

A tenth man, the navigator and only survivor of the crash – 2nd Lt. Jose (Joe) L. Holguin – was held as a prisoner of war until his release in September 1945.

In 1949, U.S. military personnel in the area were led to the B-17 crash site. Remains were recovered but couldn’t be identified with technology of the time. The five bodies were buried in Hawaii, but Christopherson’s remains were not among the five it was learned later.

In 1982 and 1983, Holguin returned to find the site and parts of the plane were recovered.

In 2001 additional human remains and crew-related items were recovered.

Williams was contacted just last year and told that the additional remains had been found in 2001, and that a special burial service would be held at Arlington.

She was also told that none of the remains matched her DNA, so none of the small pieces of human remains were of her father, but that all of the items found would be buried in one casket together. Some pieces were just too small to test.

Williams was finally notified just recently that the ceremony was set for Sept. 21.

She was flown to Washington by the Army and was escorted by Army service personnel from Jackson.

Williams was 3 months old when her father was killed in the crash of the ‘Naughty But Nice’ in 1943.

“He never had a chance to see me before he was killed, and of course I have no memories of him,” Williams told the Register in a story in the November 2008 Our Heroes magazine.

Williams mother, Hazel, married Gordy Enger of Blue Earth three years after Robert Christopherson was killed, and he is the person Williams considers her father.

“I could not have asked for a better stepdad,” she said in the 2008 interview.

Before she left for the trip to Washington last week, Williams told the Register that she could not believe how emotional she felt over the impending ceremony.

“Considering I never knew him, I can’t believe how many feelings I have for him,” she said. “I know this ceremony will be very emotional for me, but I think I will feel some closure to the whole story.”