Bernard Collard (left) and Helmut Bruls show the remains of a P-47 aircraft that Charles Loring flew during World War II. The plane crashed over the farm of Bruls' grandparents in 1944. Credit: Courtesy of Cuppy Johndro

Charlene Whittaker has no memories of her father, the late Maj. Charles Loring, but soon she will be able to hold pieces of his World War II history.

A fighter pilot, Loring was shot down by German forces over Belgium in December 1944. Historians Helmut Bruls and Bernard Collard recently discovered remains of the plane. Some pieces will be sent to the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, named after the pilot, and to his surviving family members.

Later this year, on a date yet to be determined, Whittaker, 73, will join her father’s brother, Paul Loring, and other relatives at Loring Memorial Park in Portland. They will open a box containing remnants of Loring’s plane.

In an undated World War II-era photo, Charles Loring poses in his jet fighter gear. Credit: Courtesy of Cuppy Johndro

“It’s the only thing I’ll get to see and touch from World War II,” Whittaker said.

Whittaker, who has lived in Louisiana since 1988, was only 2 1/2 years old when her father was killed in the Korean War at the age of 34.

Loring was leading a flight patrol near the 38th parallel on Nov. 22, 1952, when he noticed Chinese aircraft trained on American ground troops. Chinese forces struck and damaged his plane and he knew he would crash. He aimed his F-80 directly at the gun positions and crashed into them, destroying them upon impact. His body was never found.

Surviving were Elsie Loring, his wife of three years, and their two daughters, Whittaker and the late Aldor Jacobs, who died in 2011. Elsie died in 2016.

Whittaker did not hear many stories about her father’s military service while growing up, but her mother kept his letters, diaries and uniforms. She also kept his Medal of Honor, which Loring received posthumously in 1954 for his heroic actions in Korea.

A storage shed fire in Louisiana, where Whittaker lives, destroyed most of those things many years ago. Having actual pieces of her father’s World War II plane will be special for her and the family.

Today, Paul Loring, 91, is Charles’ last surviving sibling. They grew up with two sisters and four brothers on Anderson Street in Portland.

Paul Loring was 21 and serving on a Navy base in Florida when he learned about his brother’s death.

One of his most distinct memories of his brother occurred when Charles was speaking about being in a German prisoner of war camp. He was captured after his plane crashed in Belgium and released in May 1945.

“He told our father he would never be taken prisoner again,” Paul Loring said. “I remember that like it was yesterday.”

Paul Loring has remained in Portland. Every year he and family members take care of Loring Memorial Park on Munjoy Hill, which was dedicated to Charles Loring in 2000.

The moment Paul sees the remains of Charles’ plane will complete the story of a brother he never forgot.

“I’ve had goosebumps since finding out,” he said. “So many people have called and said, ‘I flew with your brother’ or ‘My father flew with him.'”  

Brul’s family’s connection to World War II and respect for American fighter pilots inspired him and Collard, a friend and fellow amateur historian, to search for pieces of Loring’s missing plane.

Bruls’ father, Joseph Bruls, was 11 in December 1944 when German forces invaded Rocherath-Krinkelt, Belgium, and the family evacuated. They returned in spring 1945. Joseph discovered the site of the plane crash.

Bruls and Collard suspect the main parts of the wreck were dismantled and sold by scrap collectors. The collectors likely tossed what they did not want into a nearby field, according to their report of their findings.

Charles Loring poses in this undated World War II-era photo. | Courtesy of Cuppy Johndro

Among the found items are a plate containing Loring’s radio call number, an oil filler cap, ammunition to a .50 military rifle and pieces of the plane’s gear box. Many pieces will be given to the Loring Air Museum in Limestone. Others will go to Loring’s family.

Until now there was no record of where Loring’s plane crashed. Bruls and Collard want people to remember American soldiers like Loring who helped defend their home country.

“We will do whatever we can to get some of those pieces shipped [to the U.S.]. We think they have their right place there,” Bruls said. “This way, these tragic and painful events will never be forgotten.”