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Two Airmen Missing From WWII Identified

One P-38 Pilot, One B-17 Crewman Returned To Their Families

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced this week that that the remains of two U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

B-17G File Photo

Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. John J. Bono, 28, of Denver, will be buried on Dec. 2 in his hometown. On Sept. 13, 1944, Bono and eight other crew members were on a B-17G Flying Fortress that crashed near Neustaedt-on-the-Werra, Germany. Only one of the crewmen is known to have successfully parachuted out of the aircraft before in crashed. The remaining eight crewmen were buried by German forces in a cemetery in Neustaedt.

Following the war, U.S. Army Graves Registration personnel attempted to recover the remains of the eight men, but were only able to move the remains of one man to a U.S. military cemetery in Holland. In 1953, with access to eastern Germany restricted by the Soviet Union, the remains of the seven unaccounted for crewmen were declared Non-Recoverable. In 1991, a German national who was digging a grave in the cemetery in Neustaedt, discovered a metal U.S. military identification tag and notified officials. The U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was not able to gain access to the site until 2007, and in 2008 excavated the area within the cemetery, and recovered human remains, and additional metal identification tags from three of the crewmembers, including Bono.

To identify Bono’s remains, scientists from the JPAC used forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, including dental comparisons. Additionally, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA—which matched that of Bono’s cousin and niece—in the identification of his remains.

The other airman was 1st Lt. Stephen L. Pascal, 20, of Hollywood, CA, who was buried on Nov. 30, in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

P-38 Lightning File Photo

On April 7, 1945, Pascal was flying a photo reconnaissance mission between Gottingen and Alfeld, Germany, when his P-38 Lightning aircraft, fitted for reconnaissance, went missing. An investigation conducted after the war determined Pascal’s aircraft exploded over the town of Gottingen. Nearby, on the same day, 1st Lt. Newell F. Mills Jr., and his wingman, went missing in their P-51D aircraft.

In 1947, the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service (AGRS) exhumed remains of an American pilot, buried by local residents, from a village cemetery in Varrigsen, Germany. The circumstantial evidence led AGRS to believe the remains belonged to be Mills since his aircraft was closer to that village, when it went missing, than Pascal’s. The remains were buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery near Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium.

In 2004, a German civilian began excavating the crash site associated with the airman buried in Varrigsen. Aircraft parts recovered from the location were from a P-38 Lightning—Pascal’s aircraft—not the P-51D flown by Mills. In 2007, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) excavated the crash site and recovered human remains, P-38 aircraft parts and military equipment. In 2008, JPAC exhumed the remains thought to be Mills and examined them with the remains recovered in 2007. It was determined that the remains were all Pascal’s.

Among forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC used mitochondrial DNA—which matched that of Pascal’s cousin—in the identification of his remains.

FMI: www.dtic.mil/dpmo

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