Will Flanders’ field give up Eugene’s body?

The US army has dispatched twenty-four investigators and archaeologists to Retie (Antwerp Province) in the hope they will be able to recover the body of Eugene Shauvin, an American pilot, who died during the Second World War.

Local Chris Nuyts takes up the story: “It was on 17 September 1944, during Operation Market Garden, that a Dakota aircraft carrying American paratroopers crashed in our field.  The plane had been shot down by German forces. The paratroopers got out in time, but the pilot was never found.”

Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied operation in the closing months of the Second World War.  It was intended to establish the northern end of a pincer ready to project deeper into Nazi Germany.

At the beginning of the noughties Eugene Shauvin’s daughter Linda contacted the Nuyts Family.  She and her mother wanted to know where her father had died.  The farm has been owned by the Nuyts Family for generations.  Over the years Chris Nuyts has also gone to talk to eyewitnesses of the crash.

In 2001 Linda, her mother and two of Eugene’s brothers travelled to Retie.  In consultation with the town authorities a commemorative stone was laid.  “This made such an impression on the Shauvins and they invited us to America” explains Chris.  “Ever since we have been very close.”

An investigation to find Eugene’s remains then started.  A first US team arrived in 2003.

“They discovered part of the wreckage but no mortal remains.  The team didn’t have the time to search any further.  Linda then got onto the US defence department that decided to send the team that are working here now.”

Time is of the essence.  Eugene’s widow is 98.  Linda is 80.

“They’ve turned our barn into a search HQ” says Chris.  “There’s an awful lot of equipment the Americans brought with them.  Pumps and sieve installations to process the soil that is dug up.  The team includes archaeologists, experts in plane parts and human remains.  They are examining the spot where the cockpit came down.  Eugene must be in this area. If the Americans find any human remains, they will conduct a DNA examination in a lab in Hawaii”.

Top stories