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Remains of a World War II airman identified nearly 80 years after his death

Posted at 4:12 PM, May 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-29 16:12:36-04

An Army Air Forces member who was killed 80 years ago during World War II has been identified and accounted for, and will be laid to rest in his Illinois hometown days after Memorial Day.

Tech. Sgt. James Howie, who was 24 at the time, was a radio operator on a B-24 Liberator bomber on August 1, 1943, when it was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire and crashed north of Bucharest, Romania, during Operation Tidal Wave, the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said.

After the war, Howie’s remains were never identified, the agency said. His remains, along with the remains of other unidentified comrades, were buried as “unknowns” in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania, the agency said.

It’s estimated that more than 81,500 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars and other conflicts. More than 41,000 of those missing are presumed lost at sea, according to the agency.

The American Graves Registration Command, an organization that searched for and recovered fallen American personnel, disinterred all American remains from the Bolovan Cemetery for identification after the war, according to the agency.

After the war, the American Graves Registration Command disinterred all US remains from the Bolovan Cemetery for identification.The agency was unable to identify more than 80 unknown soldiers from Bolovan Cemetery – and those remains were interred at Belgian cemeteries.

In 2017, the agency exhumed the unidentified remains and sent them to a laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for examination and identification, the agency said.

Scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, circumstantial evidence and DNA testing to identify Howie’s remains, the agency said. Howie’s remains were accounted for on August 23, 2022.

Howie’s name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, with others still missing from World War II. Since Howie’s remains were identified, a rosette will be placed next to his name indicating that he has been accounted for, the agency said.

Howie will be buried in his hometown of Chester, Illinois, on June 3.

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