MANATEE -- Bryan Moon, who led 34 missions to China, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere to locate the remains of missing U.S. service members at crash sites and unmarked graves, has died at age 87 in Sarasota.
The Palm-Aire resident fell ill after preparing a Veterans Day exhibit of artifacts from the 1942 Doolittle raid on Tokyo. Mr. Moon and his team of explorers collected the artifacts in China during the early 1990s. The exhibit, which commemorated America's first strike at Japan after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, also became Mr. Moon's memorial, said Palm-Aire resident Charleen Gorbet.
"He was so passionate about the Doolittle mission and wanted to make sure people didn't forget about those brave airmen," Gorbet said.
Mr. Moon's team collected items from four of the 16 Mitchell bombers taking part in the raid.
Doolittle and his legendary raiders took off from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier in pitching seas April 18, 1942, dropped their bombs on Tokyo, and continued on to China. One plane landed in the Soviet Union.
The Doolittle exhibit at the Palm-Aire Country Club was taken down after Veterans Day.
"It was a joy to spend those later years with my father in all parts of the globe. He never missed a beat at 87 and was still doing speeches and presentations. He was painting until the end," said his son, Christopher Moon.
Asked in a 2006 Bradenton Herald interview why he had such a passion for finding those missing in action, Mr. Moon responded: "From World War II alone, there are 68,000 MIAs out there. Does anyone need any other reason?"
He was the cofounder, with his son Chris Moon, of MIA Hunters, a volunteer non-profit organization that sought to find and facilitate the recovery of the remains of missing American air crew members.
Much of the work to bring closure to families about the fate of their loved ones was self-funded.
"It was a fairly lonely endeavor, and much of it he underwrote himself," Chris Moon said. "Neither my father nor I were born in this country. This was our way of trying to give back."
Mr. Moon was born in Southampton, England, and was a former member of the Royal Air Force and a retired Northwest Airline executive.
"He had a passion for aviation and painting whimsical pictures of animals," Chris Moon said.
His animal paintings ended up on all kinds of applications from T-shirts to household items.
"He had a good sense of humor and never took himself too seriously," Chris Moon said.
Mr. Moon, who died Nov. 25 after suffering a stroke, is survived by his wife, Donna, and sons, Chris and Howard.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.