Saturday, October 22, 2011

Missing WWII Aircrew Identified

Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Robert R. Bishop of Joliet, Ill.; 2nd Lt. Thomas Digman, Jr. of Pittsburgh, Pa; 2nd Lt. Donald W. Hess of Sioux City, Iowa; 2nd Lt. Arthur W. Luce, of Fort Bragg, Calif.; Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Karaso, of Philadelphia, Pa; Staff Sgt. Ralph L. McDonald of East Point, Ga.; Sgt. John P. Bonnassiolle of Oakland, Calif.; Sgt. James T. Blong of Port Washington, Wis.; Sgt. Michael A. Chiodo of Cleveland, Oh; and Sgt. John J. Harringer, Jr. of South Bend, Ind., will be buried as a group, in a single casket representing the entire crew, on Oct. 26, in Arlington National Cemetery. Hess and Karaso will be interred individually in Arlington National Cemetery.

On April 29, 1944, the 10 airmen were ordered to carry out a bombing mission over Berlin, Germany, in their B-24J Liberator aircraft, piloted by Bishop and Luce. German documents captured after the war noted that the aircraft crashed near the town of East Meitze, Germany, and there were no survivors. German forces buried the remains of Digman, Blong, and one unknown airman in a cemetery near Hannover, Germany, around the time of the crash. In 1946, the Army Graves Registration Service exhumed the remains of the three individuals for identification and reburied them 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 (JPAC) team excavated the crash site and gathered additional human remains, military equipment, and metal identification tags for Bishop, Blong, Bonnassiolle and Harringer. The team also recovered a class ring with the initials AWL -- presumably belonging to Luce. In 2007, a JPAC team completed the site excavation and found additional evidence that helped to confirm the identity of the crew.

At the end of the war, 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.