I recently had the opportunity to visit Belgium and I was humbled by the degree of respect and caring exhibited by your countrymen for my countrymen.I thank you very much for that.
91st BG is a particular interest area of mine."Hellsapopin" was aircraft 41-24459.(On the tail this is always written as 124459)It was a B-17 F (B17F-10-BO) Built at Boeing Seattle, Washington.
The name "Hellsapoppin" is most likely taken from the then-popular Broadway musical by the same name.
In the 401st BS it carried the fuselage code LL-A and later LL-B.It was the "B" plane when lost.
There is a photo of this plane in the 91st history-THE RAGGED IRREGULARS OF BASSINGBOURNE.The photo is on page 14, and the plane is mis-identified in the caption as plane 449 "Invasion II". The tail number is clearly visible as plane 459 and the B code can be clearly seen.
"Hellsapopin" was one of six planes lost that day on the mission to Bremen.In fact all the losses were out of the 401st.
Using John W. Wilson as a key.We can determine that the report of the loss of 459 will appear in records as MACR (Missing Aircrew Report) Number 5520. (An alternate resource indicates that the MACR Number is 15220.This will need to be clarified.)
Summary data in my reference materials show thatthe plane was reported lost to enemy fighters and crashed in Wunstorf, Germany.There were 5 men KIA and 5 POW.
Having some experience with tracking MIAs, it is interesting to note that Lt. Wilson is buried in Neupre.Considering the date of loss and location, it appears that he was temporarilly interred in Germany for over two years before his body was transferred to the American Cemetery at Neuville-en-Condroz (which became the ARDENNES Cemetery in Neupre.)
As indicated in another follow-up, the IDPF would have substantial data concerning the loss and recovery of Wilson and the other members of his crew.The IDPF would also have correspondence with his family concerning his burial in the cemetery in Belgium.I would undertake to acquire the IDPF and the MACR seperately to insure that you have the most complete record of the loss in the event that alterations were made, or elements of either file might be missing.If you are lucky the MACR will also have a crew roster with names of the next-of-kin for each man.
If I were to undertake an investigation I would acquire the IDPFs for all of the men lost on 459.In the case of a plane crash it is common to find information about one man in another man's file.
It is not impossible to find living relatives of a deceased serviceman.However with a name like Wilson, it may present a little difficulty as this is a very common name.
National Archives shows Wilson as a resident of POLK County, Iowa when he entered service.POLK County happens to be the County where the capitol of Iowa is located--Des Moines, so newspaper archives should be plentiful.As the county seat would have the best news archives, it would be the place to start to determine what smaller town he may have come from.
I would recommend contacting the local historical society regarding newsclippings of servicemen lost in the war.Here you may well locate a photograph of John Wilson.Also any newspaper report of his loss would contain mention of his family, and that is where your link to modern history will be found.
You might also consider writing to the major Des Moines newspaper editor who deals with Military and Veteran Affairs and tell them about your "War God-mothers" program.A story published about your efforts and interest in this local serviceman might bring you in contact with a living relative, or a local historian who has access to archives and records.
The notation at National Archives indicates that in the case of Wilson there was a FOD (Finding of Death) which means that he was considered MIA (Missing in Action) for a period of time, and then declared dead.The publication date of the NARA Roster is 1947, so it is likely that he and the other KIAs from his plane were not recovered and identified until sometime after this date.This would lead me to believe that there will be substantial correspondence in the IDPFs regarding the identification process.
I hope this helps a bit, and hopefully starts you out on a path to locate someone in Wilson's family.