FORT SMITH, Ark. — After 77 years, Lt. Henry Donald Mitchell will be laid to rest this fall.
It’s been more than 77 years since the Mitchell family was all together.
After Bob Mitchell lost the rest of his loved ones, he began asking questions about his brother Henry’s final flight.
“And I thought man I’d really like to find out what happened to him,” said Robert Mitchell, Lt. Henry’s Mitchell’s younger brother.
Robert set out on a tenacious journey, with his first stop being then-Congressman Asa Hutchinson in 1997. Robert was given his brother’s military records and his office began looking into the whereabouts of his brother’s remains on his behalf.
In the years following, the offices of Congressman Steve Womack and Senator John Boozman took over the search.
“It was one of thirteen active missing in action cases in Austria at the time. So we were kind of at a dead-end,” said Chris Bader, a caseworker with Congressman Womack’s office. “Not really a dead-end but kind of at a point where everyone else had gotten to there. And we started looking at some other options.”
But with some help, in 2017, they found Lieutenant Mitchell’s remains on a game preserve in Austria.
“Well the landowner died, and his son now owns the land,” Bob detailed yet another obstacle in his search. “We contacted him and he said well y’all can dig anywhere and whenever you want to you just can’t do it during deer season.