The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, recently accounted-for from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Stanley F. Stegnerski, 25, of Chester, Pennsylvania, will be buried January 22 in Millsboro, Deleware. On Nov. 21, 1944, Stegnerski was the pilot of a P-51D Mustang, taking off from Royal Air Force Base 133 at East Wretham, Norfolk, England, on a bomber escort mission over Germany. Over Merseberg, Germany, the American aircraft were attacked by German fighters. Stegnerski’s group closed in on a group of 20 German fighters and opened fire. He was last seen by his wingman as they prepared to attack the German Focke-Wulf fighters.
A German shoot-down report noted a P-51 Mustang, with a tail number similar to Stegnerski’s, crashed on Nov. 21, 1944 on a road between Dollstedt and Grafentonna, Germany. The report stated the pilot could not be identified and the remains were buried in Grafentonna. Based on this information and no information concerning Stegnerski as a prisoner of war, the Secretary of War declared him deceased on Nov. 22, 1945.
Because Grafentonna, Germany was in Soviet control after 1947, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) were restricted in their investigation.
In 2008, German nationals Mathias Leich and Hans-Gunther Ploes, provided information and analysis that led to a U.S. team to investigate a crash site near Dollstadt and Grafentonna, where the team recovered a piece of engine cowling matching Stegnerski’s aircraft.
In July and August 2016, a DPAA team excavated the crash site, finding possible osseous remains, material evidence and personal equipment. The remains were sent to DPAA for analysis.
To identify Stegnerski’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to Mr. Leich and Mr. Ploes for their assistance in this recovery mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,964 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Stegnerski’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission in Belgium, along with the others missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
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.