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Concluding a Chapter of Valor and Loss with Honors for Harlingen’s Fallen Hero

Updated: Mar 17

(This article was written by Lisa Campos and appeared in the Explore Harlingen Magazine, November 2023 issue.)

This past November, the Defense Personnel POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Porter M. Pile, 24, of Harlingen, killed during World War II, finally had been accounted for. Pile, previously categorized as MIA, was laid to rest on American soil with full military honors, including a flyover by his old squadron, at Arlington National Cemetery on October 31, 2023, 79 years after he paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Photo courtesy of the Defense Personnel POW/MIA Accounting Agency

Pile served with the 700th Bombardment Squadron (now the 700th Airlift Squadron, Dobbins ARB, Georgia), 445th Bombardment Group. He was navigator on a B-24H Liberator bomber on his 23rd mission over Germany on September 27, 1944, when his aircraft was shot down in what would become, to this day, the largest single-day loss of aircraft by American combat forces. For his family and friends, the loss of Pile was made worse since his body was not recovered, and the Germans never reported him as a prisoner of war. Human remains found at the crash site in later years remained unidentified until scientists from DPAA used anthropological information, DNA analysis, and dental records to make a positive identification in late 2022. DPAA immediately identified the family by contacting Pile’s oldest living relative, Randy Fleuriet of Harlingen.

Following the interment of Pile at Arlington National Cemetery on October 31, the Harlingen community will honor Pile with a concluding ceremony on November 9, 2023, at 11 a.m. at the Greater Chamber of Harlingen. Chamber President Javier De Leon will make introductory remarks with Mr. Fleuriet as the featured speaker. Both the Harlingen Police Department and Harlingen Fire Department will form the Honor Guard, with the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) units from both Harlingen high schools also in attendance. The event will conclude with Assistant Choir Director of Harlingen High School, Alfonso Gonzalez, singing “You Raise Me Up,” followed by the sounding of ”Taps” by Marine Military Academy (MMA) cadets as a final tribute to Pile.

Harlingen residents are encouraged to show support for their hometown airman, missing in action for 79 years, either by attending the concluding ceremony on November 9 at 11 a.m. at the Greater Chamber of Harlingen, 311 E. Tyler, in Harlingen, or by taking a moment to reflect on the valor and courage of Pile and his entire generation of military heroes.

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