Remains of Americans Lost in World War II Bomber Crash Returned from Germany 67 Years Later
The accident involving a Consolidated B-24 Liberator aircraft happened on April 29, 1944 after 10 U.S. airmen were ordered to carry out a bombing mission over the German capital of Berlin. German documents captured after the war noted that the aircraft crashed near the town of Meitze, located in the German state of Lower Saxony.
After the crash, German forces buried the remains of three of the airmen in a cemetery near Hannover before they were reburied in 1946 at a U.S. military cemetery in Belgium. The other victims were not recovered by German forces at the time.
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 U.S. recovery team excavated the crash site and gathered additional human remains, military equipment, and metal identification tags for four of the crew members. The site excavation was completed in 2007 when additional evidence was found.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the U.S. Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory have recently been able to use dental analysis and mitochondrial DNA to identify the remains. Some of the DNA matched that of crew members’ families.
The victims were identified as Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Robert R. Bishop of Joliet, Ill.; 2nd Lt. Thomas Digman, Jr. of Pittsburgh; 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; 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; and Sgt. John J. Harringer, Jr. of South Bend, Ind.
The victims of the plane crash will be buried as a group, in a single casket representing the entire crew, on October 26 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Hess and Karaso will be interred individually at Arlington.
More than 73,000 Americans remain unaccounted-for from World War II.