Daughter buries her WWII pilot dad, 72 years after his plane was shot down over Germany


A 73-year-old woman is finally able to bury her father following the discovery of his remains, seven decades after his plane was shot down during World War II. 

Barbara O'Brien's father, Robert Mains, was a pilot sent overseas to fight in World War II just hours after his baby daughter was born.    

"I was an infant — I was just born," O'Brien told Inside Edition. "He held me for one day and then he had to fight in the war." 

Mains was 27 years old when he was shot down over Germany, just one month before they surrendered.

As a little girl, O'Brien convinced herself her dad was coming home, even after her mother remarried. But the sad reality eventually sunk it that her dad was gone forever.

"Sixth, seventh grade, I knew that he was not coming back," she said. 

As the decades passed, she raised a family of her own in Stony Brook, on New York’s Long Island. All she had to remember her father was a photograph, which has remained her most treasured possession. 

That was until recently, when her father's remains were found in a remote field outside Hamburg.

At MacArthur Airport on Thursday afternoon, a full military honor guard escorted the body of Lt. Robert Mains, as it returned to America. His daughter was transfixed as the casket was carried into a hearse. 

"I went over and I said, 'Welcome home, dad. I am going to take care of you now,'" she said. "I feel close to my father and I feel that I am so blessed that they found my father." 

On Saturday morning, Lt. Mains’ will be buried with full military honors at the Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island.

19 PHOTOS
Life aboard a Navy ship during WWII
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Life aboard a Navy ship during WWII

Military Aircraft Aboard U.S.S. Yorktown with Sailors Performing Exercises, 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sailors Watch as Aircraft Takes Off, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sailors Aboard U.S.S. Yorktown, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

A man holding his hat, c. 1942-1945.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Crew with Naval Torpedoes, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Aircraft Taking Off of Carrier, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Men Getting in Aircraft, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Crew Eating, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Crew reading and writing, c. 1942-1945.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sleeping man, c. 1942-1945.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Raid Against Marcus Island, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sailors Aboard U.S.S. Yorktown with Naval Artillery Above, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Plane Handlers, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

"Got a Light, Mate?", Sailors Working Aboard U.S.S. Yorktown, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sailors Playing Instruments, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Too Much Beer, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Man and Aircraft, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

U.S. Navy Under American Flag, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

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