CONCORD, N.H. -- Bernerd Harding, a World War II pilot from New Hampshire who went on a quest to find his buried pilot's wings in Germany 65 years after his B-24 bomber was shot down, died Tuesday at age 90.
Harding's wife, Ruth Harding, confirmed he died at his home in Milford. He had prostate cancer.
Harding never found his wings during his September trip to Germany, but was given a bracelet belonging to another American airman shot down to return to his family.
Later that month, Harding was a passenger in the Witchcraft -- the last B-24 still flying. He sat in the cockpit behind the pilots in a 30-minute flight from Laconia to Manchester.
Harding knew then his cancer was progressing and that would be his last landing.
Harding had said that his last WWII mission -- the 14th of his military career -- was incomplete without one more landing. September's was ''close enough,'' he said.
''It was fun. It was worth it. It's history,'' he said after the flight.
Harding was a 25-year-old first lieutenant on a mission to bomb Bernburgh, Germany, when his B-24 was shot down on the way back to his base in England. Fighters crippled his plane, forcing him and his crew to bail out with their parachutes.
Harding waited for the others to jump, then turned and saluted a German fighter pilot for not blowing up the plane with the men inside.
Harding's B-24, nicknamed Georgette, was shot down a month after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, on July 7, 1944. One member of Harding's crew was killed. The others -- including Harding -- were taken prisoner.
Harding had parachuted into a freshly cut wheat field, barely missing a barbed wire fence. Three farmers, two with pitchforks and one with a gun, captured him and herded him into a cellar in Klein Quenstedt, a village southwest of Berlin. Fearing reprisals from villagers for being a bomber pilot, Harding buried his pilot's wings in the cellar floor.