Missing WWII Naval Aviators Identified
The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
Navy Lt. Francis B. McIntyre of Mitchell, S.D.
, will be buried on Sept. 29, and Aviation Radioman Second Class William L. Russell of Cherokee, Okla.
, will be buried on Oct. 1. Both men will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
On Nov. 10, 1943
, the two men took off on a bombing and strafing mission in their SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber from Munda Field, New Georgia, in the Solomon Islands. Witnesses last saw the aircraft flying at low altitude through a large explosion on an enemy airfield on Buka Island, Papua New Guinea. None reported seeing the crash of the aircraft itself.
The American Graves Registration Service searched numerous South Pacific Islands in 1949 in an effort to gather data about aircraft crashes or missing Americans. The team was unable to find any useful information, and failed to recover any American remains in the area. A board of review declared both men unrecoverable.
In 2007, a Papuan national found a World War II crash site near the Buka airport, which was reported to U.S. officials. In May 2008, specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), working with the country’s national museum, investigated the crash site but were unable to excavate it because of inclement weather. Local officials turned over human remains, McIntyre’s identification tag and other military-related items which had been recovered earlier. After examining the remains in 2008 and 2009, JPAC determined that no excavation would be required since the two sets of remains were nearly complete.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC used dental comparisons for both men and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA which matched a sample from Russell’s relatives and DNA extracted from a hat belonging to McIntyre.
At the end of World War II, the U.S. government was unable to recover, identify and bury approximately 79,000 individuals. Today, more than 72,000 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the conflict.