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Heritage Center obtains artifacts from WWII crash involving Kelliher Sgt.

Pictured is Sgt. Stanley Pearson who was killed in a plane crash during World War II. Submitted photo. 1 / 2
Pictured are the scraps from the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber that Stanley Pearson was flying in during the crash. Submitted photo. 2 / 2

Kelliher residents will now have a new way of remembering the man their Veteran’s of Foreign Wars post is named for.

Sgt. Stanley O. Pearson was killed 70 years ago in a plane crash in the mountains of Italy during World War II and remnants of the crash were recently gifted to the North Beltrami Heritage Center.

The eight metal scraps from the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber were discovered by the Salerno 1943 Air Finders, and according to Arne Mostad of the North Beltrami Heritage Center, the Italian group wasn’t able to find family members linked to Pearson.

“The story might have ended, if it hadn’t been for the Salerno 1943 Air Finders,” Mostad wrote in a press release. “The researchers’ rediscovery of the crash site and, subsequently, of the sequence of events leading up to the fatal accident, is recounted in chapter 18 of their book, “Salerno 1943: Gli aviatori, le storie, i ritrovamenti dell’Operazione Avalanche” (“Salerno 1943: The Aviators, Stories, and Findings of Operation Avalanche”) … ”

The Salerno 1943 Air Finders were originally seeking information regarding Pearson from Kelliher City Hall, who then turned to the Heritage Center.

“They emailed me an excerpt, chapter 18, from their book which is all about this particular incident so I was able to run that through Google translate,” Mostad said.

From there, Mostad was able to better understand the unfortunate events and those leading up to the accident that occurred in late Feb. 1944.

According to Mostad’s press release, Pearson enlisted in the Army Air Corps in January 1942 and was later sent to Africa where he served as a mechanic in a ground crew in Algeria. He was then directed to Italy to serve on another ground crew, which unfortunately was the 24-year-old Pearson’s last stop.

On Feb. 25, 1944, the bomber plane with Cpl. Darrel W. Allender, Sgt. Raymond C. E. Cooper, Capt. Kenneth C. DeMay, Sgt. Jacob Kaiser, Jr., Cpl. James. P. Lee and Pearson was reported missing.

“At first, it was unknown whether the men were dead or alive, whether they had been taken prisoners of war or were still at liberty; no trace of either the plane or the men had been found,” the release stated. “A telegram from the War Department sent to Stanley’s parents, Ole and Selma, simply stated that he had been missing since February 19th “over Italy.”

Several months later, Pearson’s parents and his wife, formerly Olga Rise, were informed that the plane had crashed while transferring him to a new airfield in bad weather.

Mostad said that he wasn’t sure when the Kelliher’s VFW post was named Stanley Pearson Post, but now the town will have something else to remember him with.

The leftover fragments of the bomber plane can be viewed at the North Beltrami Heritage Center located along Highway 72 in Kelliher. The Center is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at 

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