The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from World War II, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Byron H. Nelson, 28, of Primghar, Iowa, will be buried July 1 in his hometown. On April 25, 1944, Nelson was a member of the 721st Bomb Squadron, 450th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force, and was the nose gunner aboard an American B-24G Liberator bomber. While flying from Manduria, Italy, to a target area near Varese, Italy, three aircraft became separated from the formation due to dense clouds. Nelson’s aircraft was one the three that disappeared. It was later learned that eight of the 10 people in his aircraft parachuted from the bomber after being attacked by German fighters. Six crewmen were able to successfully evade capture and two were captured. A captured crewman was told by a German interrogator that two crewmen perished in the crash, one being Nelson.
On Sept. 9, 1947, the American Graves Registration Service disinterred remains from a cemetery near Fognano, Italy, where they were reportedly buried by local residents following the crash. The AGRS then moved his remains temporarily to the U.S. Military Cemetery at Mirandola on Sept. 10 as “Mirandola Unknown X-190.”
On July 24, 1948, the remains were disinterred for attempted identification. The remains were unable to be identified and were re-interred in the Florence American Cemetery on May 26, 1949.
DPAA researchers made a historical association between Mirandola Unknown X-190 and Nelson's incident based on wartime records written by the Italian Military Police in Brisighella, as well as information gathered during field investigations with local Italian citizens. Due to the historical evidence and newly available technology, the remains were disinterred in August 2015.
To identify Nelson’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched a grand nephew, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and circumstantial evidence.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 73,052 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II.
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, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420.