WWII Army aircrew laid to rest
October 26, 2011
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 26, 2011) -- The remains of 10 Army Air Force members, missing in action since World War II, were finally laid to rest today in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
The airmen were carrying out a bombing mission over Berlin on April 29, 1944 in their B-24J Liberator aircraft when it crashed near the town of East Meitze, Germany.
German documents captured after the war stated there were no survivors in the crash which occurred north of the city of Hanover, about halfway between Berlin and the North Sea.
German forces buried the remains of three of the airmen in a cemetery near Hanover, Germany, shortly after the crash. In 1946, the Army Graves Registration Service exhumed the remains of the three and identified one as 2nd Lt. Thomas Digman Jr. of Pittsburgh and another as Sgt. James T. Blong of Port Washington, Wis.
The third set of remains could not be identified then, but all three were reburied in a U.S. military cemetery in Condroz, Belgium.
In 2003, a German national located the site of the crash and recovered human remains, which were turned over to U.S. officials. In 2005, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC team excavated the crash site and gathered additional human remains, military equipment, and metal identification tags for four of the airmen.
The team also recovered a class ring with the initials AWL -- presumably belonging to 2nd Lt. Arthur W. Luce, one of the pilots, from Fort Bragg, Calif. One of the ID tags found was for the other pilot, 2nd Lt. Robert R. Bishop of Joliet, Ill.
In 2007, a JPAC team completed the site excavation and found additional evidence that helped to confirm the identity of the crew.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental analysis and mitochondrial DNA -- which matched that of some of the crewmembers' families -- in the identification of their remains.
Along with Bishop, Luce, Digman and Blong, the airmen buried in Arlington National Cemetery included:
-- Sgt. John P. Bonnassiolle of Oakland, Calif.
-- Sgt. Michael A. Chiodo of Cleveland
-- Sgt. John J. Harringer Jr. of South Bend, Ind.
-- 2nd Lt. Donald W. Hess of Sioux City, Iowa
-- Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Karaso, of Philadelphia
-- Staff Sgt. Ralph L. McDonald of East Point, Ga.
They were buried as a group, in a single casket representing the entire crew, in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Hess and Karaso will also be interred individually in Arlington National Cemetery.
At the end of the World War II, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans. Today, more than 73,000 remain unaccounted-for from the conflict.
(A release from the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office contributed to this report.)