World War II pilot's remains found embedded in tree, returned for burial 72 years later

The remains of two aviators from Washington, only one of which survived World War II, were finally buried side by side after one vet's bones were found embedded in the roots of a tree in Germany.

For more than 70 years, a tree protected the remains of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Gray after his plane crashed in Germany in 1945.

"It grew over his remains and really protected and marked the spot," Doug Louvier, Gray's nephew, told Q13 Fox.

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According to Louvier, Gray had enlisted together with his best friend, Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Jim Louvier.

As they shipped out together, they both promised each other that should one of them die, the other would take care of his family back home.

"They loved each other as brothers and friends," Doug Louvier said.

But things took an unfortunate turn on April 16, 1945, when 21-year-old Gray was on a five-day combat mission and his plane fatally crashed after taking enemy fire.

Jim Louvier would die many years later at the age of 89 in 2010. But he went on to keep his promise to his best friend long before that, marrying Gray's sister after the war ended.

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"I know he loved her dearly and committed to her for 64 years before he died," Louvier's daughter, Jan Bradshaw, told the outlet.

The two best friends were given a military burial with honors and are resting side by side at the Tahoma National Cemetery.