Remains found in Italy, family members tell story of WWII pilot

Remains found scattered across an Italian field have created a buzz across the Midstate.

Several nephews from several counties have called ABC 27 following our story of Captain Arthur Halfpapp, a Steelton native who was shot down over Italy in the waning days of World War II.

Halfpapp’s remains apparently were found by an Italian excavation crew.

“Mom talked about him pretty often,” said Pete Wolf of York County.

Wolf’s mother was one of Halfpapp’s six sisters. Wolf, 57, said the family grew up with stories Halfpapp’s heroics and he’s excited remnants have been unearthed.

“We didn’t get to meet him, but he did pretty good for the United States Army Air Corps at the time and for the family name Halfpapp,” Wolf said.

Actually, one nephew did meet Halfpapp.

Jack Sipe of Middletown was 5 years old when Uncle Archie, as he was known, went off to war.

Sipe was in Steelton that Sunday when the terrible news came to his mother, Helen, Halfpapp’s oldest sister.

“I remember somebody knocked at the door and whatever they said my mom screamed. She never cried out loud in front of us kids, but she just ran and laid on the sofa and cried and cried and cried,” Sipe said.

Sipe remembers his uncle as a kind and honorable man.

“The whole time he was overseas, he sent half his money home to his mother,” Sipe said.

He was a family hero and a war hero. Sipe proudly displays his collection of Halfpapp memorabilia. He has his uncle’s Purple Heart, Air Medal with three oak cluster, and rare Distinguished Flying Cross.

Sipe also has lots of pictures and that dreaded letter.

“Dear Mrs. Halfpapp,” Sipe reads with emotion. “With greatest regret, I have learned of the death of your son.”

Uncle Archie flew a P-47 Thunderbolt. After 50 missions, he could’ve gone home. After 100 missions, he was told to go home. Sipe says he refused because he didn’t want some rookie to take his place and get shot down. Halfpapp was killed on his 103rd mission on April 24, 1945.

“Thirteen days before the war was over,” Sipe said shaking his head. “That’s what hurts so much. He could’ve come home but didn’t.”

Halfpapp’s been hidden by history for 70 years, but Sipe couldn’t hide his emotions when he learned of the finding in Italy.

“I wept. I couldn’t believe this,” he said. “It’s the highlight of my life to see him come home, I mean that with all my heart.”

The United States military still must confirm that the remains belong to Halfpapp. That could take time, but the family is beginning to discuss what they’ll do if and when they get his remains.

Arlington National Cemetery could be one option. Fort Indiantown Gap may be another. But Pete Wolf would like to see him in the Midstate cemetery with his grandmother, Halfpapp’s mother.”

“That was mom’s boy,” he said. “He was the only boy. I think that’s where he belongs.”

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