updated 8/13/2008 6:22:29 PM ET 2008-08-13T22:22:29

Howard "Cliff" Enoch Jr. disappeared over what would become East Germany near the end of World War II, three months before his only son was born.

Six decades later, that son, Howard Enoch III, is getting to know his father while planning a funeral and memorial service for a man he never met.

"For 63 years, I had no reason to believe I would ever find out what happened to my father," Enoch said. "It's been remarkable."

The Department of Defense announced Wednesday it had identified the remains of 2nd Lt. Howard Clifton Enoch Jr. of Marion, Ky. His burial is scheduled for Sept. 22 at Arlington National Cemetery and a memorial service is being planned for western Kentucky in October.

Shot down in 1945
Lt. Enoch was a 20-year-old pilot of a P-51D Mustang, a long-range single-seat fighter aircraft, that was shot down near the village of Doberschutz, Germany, on March 19, 1945. Lt. Enoch's remains were not immediately recovered and the crash site fell behind Soviet lines when the war ended in May 1945.

His son, Howard Enoch III, grew up in Marion, about 66 miles east of Metropolis, Ill. His mother remarried and he was eventually told about his father's disappearance.

"He had never been there my entire life," Enoch said. "I virtually had no hope of ever knowing what happened to my dad."

Enoch, 63, went to the University of Kentucky, then later to Boston College to get a Ph.D. He now lives in Framingham, Mass. and directs The E. Paul Robsham Jr. Theater Arts Center.

In 2007 he got a call from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the military's cold case detectives, asking him to attend a meeting in Hartford, Conn., of families with relatives who went missing in World War II. After the meeting, members of the command pulled Enoch aside.

The military representatives had news: The remains of Lt. Enoch had been found in 2006 and initially identified in 2007. Officials said the ID was confirmed this year using DNA submitted by relatives of Lt. Enoch's mother to a missing soldiers database.

Recovery crew sent to Germany
A German researcher, Hans-Guenther Ploes, who searches for historic crash sites, found the spot where Lt. Enoch's plane crashed and notified the Department of Defense. The military said it sent a recovery crew to Germany, where it found the remains.

"It's a tremendous amount of information," Enoch said. "I wouldn't say I've processed it. I think I'm still a little shell shocked by it all."

Since then, Enoch has been busy making arrangements to bury the father he never knew and trying to explain all the commotion to his two young daughters, ages 8 and 6.

The process also brought him in touch with relatives he never knew.

One of them is R.C. Hamilton of Marion, Lt. Enoch's second cousin. Hamilton, 82, and the elder Enoch played together as children and both ended up serving in the U.S. Army in Europe near the end of World War II. Hamilton thought his cousin would never be found.

"I don't know that the military even looked for him," Hamilton said. "I guess they figured he was gone and that's about it."

Now that Lt. Enoch has been found, his son is trying to make sure the military honors its own. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear ordered flags lowered on Sept. 22 in a tribute to the fallen airman.

For a son who never knew his father, it's one more step in the right direction.

"I'm just so proud of him and what he did for his country," Enoch said. "Anything I can do to see he gets the honors he deserves, that's what I'm working for."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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