Christine (left)  and Theresa (right) Miaskiewicz in a frame grab.

Christine (left) and Theresa (right) Miaskiewicz in a frame grab. Credit: WBZ-TV/

The two sisters traveled to the oak-shaded grave site at Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn for 67 years. Kneeling, they prayed before the granite tombstone of their brother, who died on an Adriatic coast hillside during a World War II air crash.

"We would do some crying," said Theresa Miaskiewicz, 78, who was 11 when her brother, Staff Sgt. Meceslaus Miaskiewicz, was shot down on May 18, 1944.

But in July, a U.S. Army official called Theresa and Christine Miaskiewicz, 85, at their Salem, Mass., home to say that there had been a mix-up. Their brother was not buried on Long Island after all.

His remains had, in fact, been buried less than a mile from where his plane had crashed in what was then Yugoslavia, and had only recently been found with the help of villagers who had witnessed the crash.

The Long Island grave the sisters had been visiting for nearly seven decades -- often several times a year -- never contained his remains at all, according to Army officials.

"We were under the impression that he was buried on Long Island all this time," said Theresa Miaskiewicz. "It really is a bittersweet kind of feeling to know he was not in the grave we have been visiting, but that he has finally been found."

The mix-up was born from the chaos of war. The staff sergeant had been part of an 11-member crew aboard a B-17 named "Daisy Mae" when the bomber was shot down over Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia.

The grave site of soldier named, Miaskiewicz, who was buried...

The grave site of soldier named, Miaskiewicz, who was buried in wrong grave at Long Island National Cemetery in Melville. Family members recently learned that the body is not actually buried at section J, site 13586. (Oct. 11, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

Five years after the crash, repatriation workers for the Army's American Graves Registration Service located an unmarked grave containing what they believed to be remains of Miaskiewicz and another man, Sgt. John M. Nolan. Information about Nolan, who was from Pennsylvania, could not be learned Wednesday. The Army decided to inter the remains under a single tombstone bearing both of their names, according to an account provided by Jessica Pierno, of the Pentagon's Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office. These remains were then buried in Long Island National Cemetery's Section J, an area where several group interments were made.

But new facts recently emerged from a search near the Bosnian town of Ljubuski. Town leaders learned that residents of the nearby hamlet of Stubica had been tending the grave of an American war casualty. Led to the rocky hillside grave by the grandson of the man who wrapped Miaskiewicz's body in his parachute and buried him, Army researchers uncovered bits of an American uniform, a wallet, a watch, a rosary and a crucifix. They also found a dog tag bearing Miaskiewicz's name.

His surviving sisters, a pair of retired schoolteachers, still lived in their Salem hometown. DNA recovered from the grave site matched theirs.

Theresa Miaskiewicz said her elder brother had been a steady, nurturing presence in her life. He worked in a Salem leather factory before the war, to help support his 10 siblings.

"He gave me everything he could: love, he taught me respect, Christian values, everything that was important about growing up," she said.

Theresa Miaskiewicz says she bears no resentment over the mix-up. Nor does she consider their visits to Long Island -- trips generally spread out over two days to break up the driving -- wasted.

"After seeing the miles of tombstones, I think to honor the men and women there was the least we could do," she said.

She said her family plans to bury her brother's remains, which are being returned to the United States, at St. Mary's Cemetery in Salem. The director of Long Island National Cemetery said efforts are being made to locate Nolan's family.

"We feel we didn't have the opportunity to give him a proper burial before now," Theresa Miaskiewicz said. "This is a brother we loved so much."

Cop rescues dogs … Flags at Calverton National Cemetery … Nick Zamperion Credit: Newsday

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Cop rescues dogs … Flags at Calverton National Cemetery … Nick Zamperion Credit: Newsday

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