Biden’s Uncle (Probably) Wasn’t Eaten by Cannibals


U.S. President Joe Biden in Pittsburgh

Biden regales United Steelworkers with a grisly family tale on April 17, 2024.
Photo: Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images

Today in questions you never thought you’d ask: was the president’s uncle really eaten by cannibals?

That’s what Joe Biden asserted — twice — while describing the circumstances of his uncle’s death during World War II while campaigning in Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

Biden initially relayed the story shortly after visiting Scranton Veterans Memorial Park, where his uncle Ambrose J. Finnegan Jr.’s name is listed on a memorial wall.

“He flew single-engine planes, reconnaissance flights over New Guinea. He had volunteered because someone couldn’t make it. He got shot down in an area where there were a lot of cannibals in New Guinea at the time,” Biden told reporters.

“They never recovered his body. But the government went back, when I went down there, and they checked and found some parts of the plane and the like,” he continued.

Lest anyone doubt that Biden was saying his “Uncle Bosie” was consumed by fellow humans, he repeated the story later in the afternoon while addressing United Steelworkers union members in Pittsburg.

“He got shot down in New Guinea and they never found the body because there used to be a lot of cannibals — for real — in that part of New Guinea,” Biden said.

In both instances, Biden brought up his family members’ military service to draw a contrast with Donald Trump. After talking about his uncle and his late son Beau, who was deployed to Iraq as part of the Delaware Army National Guard, Biden referenced reports that Trump privately rejected the idea of paying tribute to Americans who died in World War I during a 2018 trip to Paris, reportedly calling service members who lost their lives “suckers” and “losers.”

Biden said on Wednesday: “‘Suckers’ and ‘losers.’ That man doesn’t deserve to have been the commander in chief for my son, my uncle.”

But no one is paying attention to that point because Biden casually alluded to a family member falling victim to cannibalism. And unsurprisingly, the facts don’t really back up the president’s wild tale.

There was documented cannibalism in that region in the mid-20th century, as CNN noted. But that practice doesn’t figure into what the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has to say about Uncle Bosie’s death:

On May 14, 1944, an A-20 havoc (serial number 42-86768), with a crew of three and one passenger, departed Momote Airfield, Los Negros Island, for a courier flight to Nadzab Airfield, New Guinea. For unknown reasons, this plane was forced to ditch in the ocean off the north coast of New Guinea. Both engines failed at low altitude, and the aircraft’s nose hit the water hard. Three men failed to emerge from the sinking wreck and were lost in the crash. One crew member survived and was rescued by a passing barge. An aerial search the next day found no trace of the missing aircraft or the lost crew members.

Second Lieutenant Ambrose J. Finnegan entered the U.S. Army Air Forces from Pennsylvania and served in Headquarters, Fifth Air Force.

He was the passenger on this Havoc when it was lost. He has not been associated with any remains recovered from the area after the war and is still unaccounted-for. Today, Second Lieutenant Finnegan is memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.

So, why did Biden suggest his uncle was eaten? Trump supporters are passing the video around today, saying it’s more proof that Biden is too mentally incompetent to be president. A more generous explanation is that this is what Biden grew up believing; he was a toddler when his uncle died and the Biden family may have handed down a colorful theory on what became of Bosie.

And while Biden has a long history of telling tales that seem heavily exaggerated if not totally made up, it would be unwise to totally rule out the involvement of cannibals. After all, “Corn Pop” turn out to be real. Doubt Uncle Joe’s tales at your own peril.

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