Ten Missing WWII Airmen are Identified

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Pacific Historian
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Jun 4, 2005
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Ten Missing WWII Airmen are Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of ten U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

They are 2nd Lt. Raymond A. Cooley, of Leary, Texas;
2nd Lt. Dudley R. Ives, of Ingleside, Texas;
2nd Lt. George E. Archer, of Cushing, Okla.;
2nd Lt. Donald F. Grady, of Harrisburg, Pa.;
Tech. Sgt. Richard R. Sargent, of North Girard, Pa.;
Tech. Sgt. Steve Zayac, of Cleveland, Ohio;
Staff Sgt. Joseph M. King, of Detroit, Mich.;
Staff Sgt. Thomas G. Knight, of Brookfield, Ill.;
Staff Sgt. Norman L. Nell, of Tarkio, Mo.;
Staff Sgt. Blair W. Smith, of Nu Mine, Pa.;
all U.S. Army Air Forces. The dates and locations of the funerals are being set by their families.

Representatives from the Army met with the next-of-kin of these men in their hometowns to explain the recovery and identification process and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the secretary of the Army.

On April 16, 1944, a B-24 Liberator crewed by these airmen was returning to the aerodrome at Nadzab, New Guinea, after bombing enemy targets near Hollandia. The aircraft was altering course due to bad weather and was proceeding to the aerodrome at Saidor, but it never returned to friendly lines.

In late 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea notified the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command that wreckage of a World War II bomber had been found in Morobe Province. Early the next year, a JPAC team surveyed the site and found aircraft wreckage and remains. They also collected more remains and Grady's identification tag from local villagers who had found the items at the crash site.

Later in 2002, a JPAC team began excavating the crash site and recovered remains and crew-related items, including identification tags for Knight and Smith. The team was unable to complete the recovery, and another JPAC team re-visited the site two weeks later to complete the excavation. The team found additional remains and identification tags for Sargent and King.

Among dental records, other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA in the identification of the remains.

'A formation of B-24s were returning to an air field at Nadzab, New Guinea, following a bombing mission on April 16, 1944, near Jayapura City, Indonesia' said Tom McLeod, historian for the 1st Marine Division Association and noted MIA researcher. 'The B-24 Liberator they were flying was forced to alter course because of bad weather, and ordered to proceed to the air field at Saidor, southeast of Madang, on New Guineas northern coast.

According to Brian Bennett and Aerothentic Research and Publications, the aircraft was last seen 50 miles north of Faita, in the central highlands of New Guinea, at 2,000 feet on a 90-degree bearing. During bad weather and using only instrument flying, the formation in which the 'Black Sunday was flying broke up. Cooley, who was the pilot, was instructed to take a heading for Saidor and proceed alone. He acknowledged the order and stated that the 'Here Tis was gaining altitude.

'This was the last radio contact with Here Tis' McLeod said. The crash site was discovered in 2001 in the Finisterre Range at 4,700 feet. The wreckage was investigated as an MIA site in 2002. The crash was discovered only 700 meters from B-24J 42-100225, also lost on the same mission and MIA for 58 years. Identification of the crews remains was completed in December using DNA and dental records.

This B24 was part of the 403rd Squadron "The Mareeba Butchers", 43rd Bomb Group "Kens Men"
 

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