Lagny le Sec, France (NNCNOW.com) - For almost 60 years, Duluthian Peggy Rich didn't know what happened to her cousin who had been raised like a brother in her family.
Cousin Floyd Lauletta joined the Air Force in 1942 and never came home.
Unlike other families who lost loved ones in the Second World War, no one told the family what happened to Floyd.
It remained a mystery until Peggy heard about a special ceremony in a small village in France that honors Floyd every year.
Each year the townspeople of the picturesque village of Lagny Le Sec gather at the city center to pay tribute to eight Americans who gave their lives to help the French resist the occupying German forces during the Second World War Two.
Floyd Lauletta was only 19 when he signed up to go to war leaving his devoted cousin Peggy Rich desolate.
Peggy says he was three years older than her but he was more like a brother than a cousin.
His family knew Floyd was good with guns and while home on leave shot a trophy bear in Northern Minnesota.
Peggy's son Jim Rich says "It was a big bear. There was talk that it was five to six hundred pounds. I don't know it that's accurate. It is over nine feet in length."
Those shooting skills would be put to use when Floyd joined the Air Force and was shipped overseas. The Air Force made him a turret gunner and a flight engineer.
"He came home, was able to say goodbye, then he headed to England." says Peggy.
But that was the last time the family would see Floyd alive.
Peggy says "My grandparents couldn't get any information as to where he was or what he was doing."
"They said he had gone out on a flight on the Fourth of July and had not returned. It was really pretty devastating for the family."
It would be almost 60 years before Floyd's family found out that he'd been recruited by a top secret agency known as the Office of Strategic Services, now known as the CIA.
Floyd was part of an elite air corps unit code–named the Carpetbaggers.
As part of the Carpetbaggers, Floyd flew highly secret missions, dropping spies, weapons, munitions, food and informational leaflets, outlining German position and troop strength, into small target zones.
Jim Rich says "That was one of the reasons as to why we were not told as to what took place, because it was a secret mission."
On July 4th,1944 the eight–member crew took off from England, bound for a target about 30 miles outside Paris. The crew had taken hits to the plane before, but on this night Floyd's B–24 took heavy ground fire and went down over the small village of Lagny le Sec. Everyone on board was killed.
The Citizens of Lagny Le Sec have never forgotten the debt they owe to the Carpetbaggers and most specifically to Floyd Lauletta and his comrades.
This year, though Peggy was unable to make the trip due to her health, her extended family, for the first time, was in Lagny le Sec for the moving ceremony.
Jim Rich says "We had an opportunity to lay the flowers at the grave. It hit home.
Jim's wife Joan, says "The service was amazing. It was such a memorable event for all of our family to be here."
An event the family will hold close to their hearts forever.