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Home at Last: Kansas City honors WW2 veteran after 80 years missing in action

Posted: 6:58 AM, Jul 08, 2024
Updated: 2024-07-08 10:50:52-04
Richard and Anita Mclauchlen

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Last week, Kansas City welcomed a veteran who was killed in the line of duty during World War II.

McLauchlen Arrives.jpg

Originally from Detroit, Lt. John Mclauchlen was brought to KC ahead of his burial at the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.

John was missing in action for more than 80 years. Now, he is finally being laid to rest.

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Richard Mclauchlen, John’s nephew, grew up hearing stories about the war hero.

“My dad used to talk about him and his brother and how they used to go up to the lake in the summertime and have so much fun together,” Richard Mclauchlen said.

Richard Mclauchlen

John enlisted in the military in January 1943.

“They taught him how to be a pilot and to be an officer. He died on Dec. 1 of 1943,” Richard Mclauchlen said.

He served just 11 months before a plane crash in Burma killed him and his crewmates.

“They said ... last they saw of Uncle John and his bomber was when they dove into a cloud bank," he said. "After that, no one ever saw anything again."

With more than 80,000 American troops missing in action, the Mclauchlen family had all but given up on bringing John home.

That was until Richard and his wife, Anita, received a call from the military.

“They want to know if they could have a genetic sample,” Richard Mclauchlen said.

Anita and Richard Mclauchlen

A genetic sample, a military team working to identify John’s remains and an arrival to Kansas City.

KSHB 41 reporter Olivia Acree asked Richard if John’s arrival is like finishing the mission 81 years later.

“For 80 years, he was unknown," he said. "Now, he's going to have a marker with his name on the grave, and he'll be able to say, 'Yes, I came home.'"

After finding out the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency was searching for John, Anita started looking into his life.

“The more I work on him, the more I feel like I know him,” she said. “I feel like I'm just as close as my husband is.”

Anita Mclauchlen

Uncle John was always important to Richard and Anita, but the couple said this whole experience has shown them he was important to the military, too.

John arrived in Kansas City on Tuesday, July 2, in a way Richard and Anita said was fit for a hero.

McLauchlen Remains.jpg

That treatment will continue Monday morning, July 8, at his burial, where there will be a flyover. Richard says this brings John’s story full circle.

“My Uncle John was a very special man. He truly was a hero,” Richard Mclauchlen said.