The remains of Army 1st Lt. Ewart Theodore Sconiers will be returned to his family in DeFuniak Springs.

Editor's note: This story appeared in The Columbus Dispatch in Columbus, Ohio, a sister paper of the Daily News.

Marilyn Walton had sat in her New Albany home office and punched on her computer keyboard the same search terms she had typed hundreds of times before during the decade or so she had been researching the potential overseas gravesite of Army 1st Lt. Ewart Theodore Sconiers, who died in a Nazi POW camp in World War II.

But this time, in August 2015, a new photograph popped up, one she never had seen before. Until that day, Walton and an army of interested civilian historians and researchers who wanted to find Sconiers’ remains and bring them home had assumed — based on historical photos and accounts — that he was buried in a corner of what was once a cemetery but is now a public park in Lubin, Poland.

Pamela Sconiers Whitelock, Sconiers’ niece and his closest living relative, thought so, too. That day, even as Walton was searching in a last-ditch effort to help, an archaeological team contracted by the federal government was digging in Lubin.

The photograph on Walton’s screen — from the website, complete with an accompanying map and locator arrow — had only recently been taken and uploaded. It marked Grave 908 of a French military cemetery in Gdansk, Poland, and showed a white cross bearing the name Edouard Sconiers and the dates of the war, 1939-1945.

Sconiers had often gone by “Ed” in the military. Could it be? wondered Walton, a Stalag Luft III historian and author. Could this somehow be him?

It turns out that it was. A government team exhumed the remains and positively identified them through DNA last year. Now, the remains of Sconiers, the last unrecovered American POW from the Germans’ infamous Stalag Luft III in WWII, have been returned to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. He will be buried with full military honors in January next to his mother in the family’s hometown of DeFuniak Springs.

Whitelock, also of New Albany, said it is surreal to finally near the end of an emotional journey that began for her family in January 1944, when Sconiers died in the camp.

“This is such a powerful story in so many ways about the price of freedom and the human impact of war,” said Whitelock, 69. “The overarching theme of it to me is that America keeps its promise because my uncle is coming home.”

Sconiers was an Army Air Corps bombardier in the war. While on a mission to the Netherlands in August 1942, he famously took the controls of a B-17 bomber, the Johnny Reb, after its pilot and co-pilot were killed by German fire. Sconiers saved the crew by safely guiding the plane to a landing.

But in October of that year, his plane was shot down; he was taken prisoner and held in Stalag Luft III.

His wife and his parents were notified in 1944 that he had died in the camp at age 29.

As an officer, he received a burial from the Germans. Photos showed that happening in Lubin.

Finding him someplace else was shocking, but the uncovered explanation was extraordinary, Walton said. (Her father, too, had been a POW at Stalag Luft III, and Walton has written several books about the camp.)

She said that after the war, the Soviet Union, which had driven the German military out of Poland, allowed the French to recover their war dead from graves there, a concession the Soviets never afforded the United States. It appears that when the French recovered five of their fallen from Lubin, they also took Sconiers, their ally.

The other markers in the French cemetery all say Mort pour la France (this man died for France); Sconiers’ did not.

“They knew he wasn’t French,” said Walton, 70. “They honored him anyway. This is a story that brings a lump to your throat in so many ways.”

According to the federal Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 73,119 U.S. troops from WWII remain unaccounted for, including 3,194 from Ohio.

For Whitelock’s part, she wishes the answers and homecoming would have happened when more of her family were still alive to see it. But her grandchildren have followed the story and now know the family’s legacy and this country’s commitment to its war dead.

“There is a whole community — here and internationally — of kindred spirits who want American families to get answers,” she said. “I hope my story convinces those who still have a lost loved one to never give up.”