Sunday, October 13, 2013

Missing Servicemen Identified


U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert E. Pietsch, 31, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Maj. Louis F. Guillermin, 25, of West Chester, Pa.,will be buried as a group Oct. 16, in a single casket representing the two servicemen at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Guillermin's individual remains weres buried Oct. 5, 2013, in Broomall, Pa. On April 30, 1968, Guillermin and Pietsch were on an armed-reconnaissance mission when their A-26A Invader aircraft crashed in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Witnesses saw an explosion on the ground and did not see any signs of survivors. Search and rescue efforts were unsuccessful, and Guillermin and Pietsch were listed as Missing in Action. In 1994, a joint U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR) team, lead by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), surveyed the crash site in Savannakhet Province, Laos.

The team recovered human remains and evidence, but was unable to fully survey the site due to the presence of dangerous unexploded ordinance. In 2006, joint U.S./LPDR teams assisted by Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel cleared the site and gathered additional human remains and evidence, such as personal effects and crew-related equipment. The remains recovered were analyzed by scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory using circumstantial evidence and forensic analysis, such as mtDNA comparisons. Portions of the remains were individually identified as Guillermin through an mtDNA match from a hair sample from Guillermin's medical file. The rest of the remains recovered were not individually identified, but correspond to both Pietsch and Guillermin. There are more than 1,640 American service members still unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.


U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Henry S. White, 23, of Kansas City, Mo., and Staff Sgt. Thomas L. Meek, 19, of Lisbon, La., will be buried as a group in a single casket representing the two servicemen, on Oct. 18, at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. On July 21, 1943, White and Meek were crew members of an SBD-4 Dauntless dive-bomber that departed Turtle Bay Airfield on Espiritu Santo Island, New Hebrides on a night training mission and failed to return. During the training mission, the aircraft was reported as crashed on a coral cliff on nearby Mavea Island. In September 1947, a U.S. Army Graves Registration Service team investigated the crash on Mavea Island, but recovered no remains. In 2012, a JPAC team excavated the crash site on Mavea Island, Republic of Vanuatu, and recovered the remains of White and Meek and non-biological evidence amid the aircraft wreckage, which included U.S. and Australian coins dating to 1942 and earlier, U.S. military captain's bars, and a military identification tag that correlates to Meek by name and service number. What was found at the crash site, along with the remains, correlate circumstantially to White and Meek, however, no individual identifications were possible.


Army Air Force 1st Lt. Robert G. Fenstermacher, 23, of Scranton, Pa., will be buried on Oct. 18, in Arlington National Cemetery. On Dec. 26, 1944, Fenstermacher was a pilot of a P-47D Thunderbolt that was on an armed-reconnaissance mission against targets in Germany, when his aircraft crashed, near Petergensfeld, Belgium. A U.S. military officer reported seeing Fenstermacher’s aircraft crash. Reaching the site shortly after impact, he recovered Fenstermacher’s identification tags from the burning wreckage. No remains or aircraft wreckage was recovered from the crash site at that time and Fenstermacher was declared killed in action. Following the war, the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service (AGRS) investigated and interviewed a local Belgian woman who told team that an aircraft crashed into the side of her house. The team searched the surrounding area, but was unsuccessful locating the crash site. In 2012, a group of local historians excavated a private yard in Petergensfeld, Belgium, recovering human remains and aircraft wreckage consistent with a P-47D. The remains were turned over to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). To identify the remains, scientists from JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, such as dental comparisons, which matched Fenstermacher’s records. There are more than 400,000 American service members killed during WWII, and the remains of more than 73,000 were never recovered or identified.