POW/MIA UPDATE

 Full Info always available at Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

 

https://www.dpaa.mil/

 

May 2022 Update

 

 Offutt lab IDs MIA Medal of Honor recipient from 1943 raid on 'Hitler's Gas Station'

By Steve Liewer, Omaha World-Herald

Forensic anthropologists at Offutt Air Force Base have identified the remains of a missing World War II pilot who earned the Medal of Honor for his role in a spectacular 1943 raid on German oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania.

DNA samples from relatives of Lt. Col. Addison Baker matched bones buried for decades at a U.S. military cemetery in Belgium, in a grave marked "unknown,” the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced recently.

Baker Photo
Lt. Col. Addison Baker, 36, died in the famous "Black Sunday" raid on the Ploesti oil refinery complex Aug. 1, 1943.

Baker, 36, of Akron, Ohio, piloted Hell’s Wench, the lead aircraft in a wave of 32 B-24D Liberators from the 93rd Bomb Group that flew at treetop level to attack the oil complex known as "Hitler’s Gas Station” — deep in enemy-held territory.

One hundred seventy-eight of the twin-tailed B-24 Liberators took off from a rustic desert airstrip near Benghazi, Libya, early on the morning of Aug. 1, 1943. Fifty-four crashed, were shot down, or failed to return, 22 of them near Ploesti.

Of the 1,763 airmen who took off, 310 were killed, and 190 were taken prisoner.

Historians called the raid "Black Sunday.” A survivor described it as being "dragged through the mouth of Hell,” according to Ploesti historian Duane Schultz.

Eighty crewmen could not be identified, even after the war. Baker was the most senior, and the most decorated, among the unknowns — until the Armed Forces DNA Lab in Dover, Delaware, confirmed his identity April 8.

"My heart flipped over. I was sort of stunned,” said George Baker, 82, of Cary, North Carolina, whose father was Addison Baker’s first cousin. "Here’s this one of many brave airmen, who happened to be my relative. They’re finally being properly identified.”

Since 2017, the accounting agency has been exhuming 88 graves marked "unknown” that are associated with the Ploesti raid from the Ardennes and Henri-Chapelle American cemeteries in Belgium.

Caskets have now been disinterred from all but two of the graves and shipped to the accounting agency’s Offutt laboratory, said Megan Ingvoldstad, the forensic anthropologist in charge of the Ploesti project. The two remaining caskets are expected to arrive sometime this summer.

She and her team have individually catalogued more than 6,000 bones and bone fragments.

"It’s kind of like a giant jigsaw puzzle,” she said. "If I want to create an individual, I have to do a lot of assembly first.”

Their work has been aided by CoRA (short for Commingled Remains Analytics), a computer program developed by students from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. CoRA analyzes the characteristics of individual bones and groups those that are mostly likely to belong to the same person.

It can sometimes be hard to extract DNA from bones as old as these, but Ingvoldstad said the Ploesti remains have yielded useful DNA samples. And DPAA has received family reference samples from relatives of all but five missing Ploesti airmen.

Addison Baker was the 17th identified so far, she said. Ten more have been tentatively ID’d, pending final approvals and family notifications.

The DPAA anthropologists often know little or nothing about the people they are tasked with identifying. But Ingvoldstad said she recently read Schultz’s 2007 Ploesti book "Into the Fire” and knew about Addison Baker’s prominent and heroic role.

"Most of the time, we’re working in the blind,” Ingvoldstad said. "When we have a personal element — putting a face to a name — that’s been really interesting.”

Addison Baker was born in Chicago in 1907 and moved to Akron, Ohio, as a youth when his father took a job with the BFGoodrich tire company. He joined the Army in 1929 and earned his pilot’s wings two years later.

Baker served in the Ohio National Guard during the 1930s while operating a filling station in Detroit. He enjoyed racing Model T Fords.

"He loved speed,” George Baker said. "My dad said he had a very adventurous spirit.”

Baker was called to active duty in November 1940 and trained as a B-24D Liberator pilot. He was assigned to the 93rd Bomb Group, where he served as a squadron commander, then as the group’s operations officer.

That’s how he came to be in the pilot’s seat of Hell’s Wench, alongside Maj. John Jerstad, leading the wave of 93rd Liberators who called themselves the "Flying Circus.”

They were trailing another wave from the 376th Bomb Group, led by Col. Keith Compton — who a quarter of a century later would cap his career at Offutt, as vice chief of staff for the Strategic Air Command.

But Compton made a fateful navigational error as the Liberators approached Ploesti, turning toward the target 20 miles too soon. Because of enforced radio silence, no one could tell him of the mistake.

Baker followed for a few minutes. But seeing smoke of the already burning oil complex off to his left, he veered toward the fire.

The improvised route saved the attack but took the Flying Circus into a thicket of German anti-aircraft guns in the most heavily defended quadrant of the Ploesti complex.

Dodging intense enemy fire and a gauntlet of barrage balloons, Baker and Jerstad aimed for the nearest refinery, Columbia Aquila. Bullets pierced their wing tanks, setting the plane on fire. A huge shell shattered the Plexiglas nose cone, killing the bombardier.

Other pilots motioned for Baker to ditch in the farm fields and save his crew.

But before the mission, Baker had briefed his men: "I’m going to take you to this one even if my plane falls apart.”

He did just that. Baker and Jerstad continued their beeline for the refinery.

Moments after clearing the Columbia Aquila’s twin smokestacks, the bomber climbed to 300 feet as crew members leaped from the blazing fuselage. Then the right wing collapsed, and Hell’s Wench plummeted into a railyard.

It narrowly missed hitting another bomber called Queenie, piloted by Lt. Col. George Brown. Brown later became a four-star general and served in the mid-1970s as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Flames hid everything in the cockpit,” Brown would say later, according to the website HomeofHeroes.com. "Baker went down after he flew his ship to pieces to get us over the target.”

For all the airmen lost, the raid had little impact on German oil production. Most of the Ploesti refineries were soon operating again.

Still, it was considered a qualified success, Christine Cohn, the chief historian for the Ploesti project, said in an article on DPAA’s website.


"The units completed the mission objective,” Cohn wrote. "They bombed their targets and many did return safely. Yes, they lost a lot of men. Yes, they lost a lot of aircraft. But they learned much from the mission.”

Baker’s men were in awe of his heroism. His co-pilot was awarded the Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest award for valor — within weeks.

But Baker’s award was held up for months, according to HomeofHeroes.com, while higher-ups debated whether he should be disqualified because of his decision to break formation and bomb a target of opportunity instead of following Compton on his mistaken route.

Finally, on March 11, 1944, Baker’s widow, Fran, was presented with the honor. The Medal of Honor citation praised his "extraordinary flying skill, gallant leadership, and intrepidity.”

Romanian civilians gathered the broken remains of the men who died in the crash for burial in a local cemetery. They collected dog tags and turned them over to the International Red Cross so the men could be accounted for — a move that nevertheless complicated efforts to identify the bodies after the war.

Those still unidentified were reburied in Belgium, where they remained until 2017.

DNA technology now offers the hope that many of them may be returned to descendants who may know these long-lost airmen only from faded photos and family stories.

"It really brings a personal touch to know that these remains are being identified,” said Jim Root, president the 93rd Bomb Group Association. "We still hear new stories all the time.”

 

 

April 2022 Update

 

After some research, I believe this is the last person to be oidentified from the Vietnam War. Hopefully more will follow.

 

 


CDR PAUL CLAUDE CHARVET



  • VIETNAM WAR
  • UNITED STATES NAVY
  • Accounted For
  • 03/01/2021

 

On March 1, 2021, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) identified the remains of Commander Paul Claude Charvet, missing from the Vietnam War.

Commander Charvet entered the U.S. Navy from Washington and served in Attack Squadron 215. On March 21, 1967, he held the rank of Lieutenant and piloted a single-seat A-1H Skyraider (bureau number 137516) as a member of a three-plane flight supporting a naval gunfire mission. During the mission, the USS Canberra requested that the flight perform reconnaissance near Hon Me Island. As the flight made a turn over Hon Me Island, visual contact with LT Charvet’s aircraft was lost. Attempts to contact LT Charvet by radio were unsuccessful, and search and rescue teams could not locate him or his Skyraider. Subsequent to the incident, and while carried in the status of missing in action, the U.S. Navy promoted LT Charvet to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. On December 2, 1977, his status was changed to "Presumed Killed in Action," and he was posthumously promoted to the rank of Commander. On September 24, 2020, representatives of the U.S. Government received human remains and material evidence from representatives of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Additional material evidence was received on the afternoon of October 15, 2020. These materials were accessioned into a DPAA Laboratory. The laboratory analysis and the totality of the circumstantial evidence available establish the remains as those of CDR Charvet.

Commander Charvet is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

 

March 2022 Update

Airman Accounted For From World War II (Salsbury, R.)

WASHINGTON  –   The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Richard G. Salsbury, 19, of Canaan, Maine, killed during World War II, was accounted for Sept. 23, 2021.

In the summer of 1943, Salsbury was assigned to the 345th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force. On Aug. 1, 1943, the B-24 Liberator aircraft on which Salsbury was serving as a gunner crashed as a result of enemy anti-aircraft fire during Operation TIDAL WAVE, the largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania. His remains were not identified following the war. The remains that could not be identified were buried as Unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania.

Following the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), the organization that searched for and recovered fallen American personnel, disinterred all American remains from the Bolovan Cemetery for identification. The AGRC was unable to identify more than 80 unknowns from Bolovan Cemetery, and those remains were permanently interred at Ardennes American Cemetery and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, both in Belgium.

In 2017, DPAA began exhuming unknowns believed to be associated with unaccounted for airmen from Operation TIDAL WAVE losses. These remains were sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for examination and identification.

To identify Salsbury’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

Salsbury’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Salsbury will be buried in his hometown. The date has yet to be determined.

 

February 2022 Update

Airman Accounted For From World War II (Benson, E.)

WASHINGTON  –   The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Army Air Forces Pfc. Edward H. Benson, Jr., 22, killed during World War II, was accounted for Jan. 31, 2022.

In March 1945, Benson was assigned to the 1562nd Army Air Force Base Unit on Biak Island, part of the modern-day Republic of Indonesia. He and 39 other service members were killed during a Japanese air raid Sorido Airstrip on March 22. Of those 40, three, including Benson, could not be identified or accounted for after the attack.

 

 

January 2022 Update

 

Soldier Accounted For From Korean War (Cherry, R.B.)

 

WASHINGTON  –   The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Army Cpl. R.B. Cherry, 19, of Dallas, who died as a prisoner of war during the Korean War, was accounted for May 19, 2020.

In late 1950, Cherry was a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action on Nov. 27, 1950, near Anju, North Korea. Using information provided by returned POWs after the war, it was determined that Cherry had been a POW in Camp 5 and died of pneumonia sometime in the winter of 1950. His remains were reportedly buried in a cemetery near the camp and were not recovered.

During Operation GLORY in 1954, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea returned the remains of just over 4,200 individuals, of which nearly 3,000 were determined to be American. During the subsequent processing and identification of these remains, none were associated with Cherry, and he was declared non-recoverable Jan. 16, 1956. At the end of the identification process, 848 unidentified remains, including one designated X-13460 Operation GLORY, were interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In 2018, X-13460 and thirteen other unknowns thought to be associated with remains from the 1st Marine Division (MARDIV) Cemetery that had been at Yudam-ni, near the Chosin Reservoir, were disinterred following recommendation from DPAA researchers. It was determined that some of the remains thought to be from the 1st MARDIV Cemetery, including X-13460, actually came from the cemetery near Camp 5.

To identify Cherry’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Cherry’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are still missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Cherry will be buried in his hometown. The date has yet to be determined.

For family and funeral information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490.

To see the most up-to-date statistics on DPAA recovery efforts for those unaccounted for from the Korean War, go to the Korean War fact sheet on the DPAA website at: https://www.dpaa.mil/ Resources/Fact-Sheets/Article- View/Article/569610/progress- on-korean-war-personnel- accounting/

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, or find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/ company/defense-pow-mia- accounting-agency.

Cherry’s personnel profile can be viewed at
https://dpaa-mil.sites. crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id= a0Jt000000GKLywEAH.

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