Tuskegee Airman Accounted For From World War II (Dickson, L.)

Release No: 18-216 Nov. 29, 2018
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WASHINGTON — The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, accounted-for from World War II, are those of Army Air Forces Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, 24, of New York, New York. Dickson was accounted for on July 26, 2018.

In December 1944, Dickson was a pilot with the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, in the European Theater. On Dec.23, 1944, Dickson departed Ramitelli Air Base, Italy on an aerial reconnaissance mission toward Praha, Czechoslovakia. On his return, Dickson’s P-51D aircraft suffered engine failure and was seen to crash along the borders of Italy and Austria, reportedly between Malborghetto and Tarviso, Italy. According to witnesses, Dickson’s plane had rolled over with the canopy jettisoned. He was not observed ejecting from the plane. Dickson’s remains were not recovered and he was subsequently declared missing in action.

After combat operations in the area ceased, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) and American Graves Registration Service- Mediterranean Zone U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps searched for and disinterred remains of U.S. servicemen in Europe, as part of the global effort to identify and return fallen servicemen.

On April 6, 1946, a search team investigated Dickson’s case, and spoke to municipal officials, locals and priests in a number of towns along the Italy-Austria border. While the team received information on several crashes, none correlated to Dickson’s loss.

On May 12, 1948, an investigation, conducted by the Austrian Detachment, First Field Command, American Graves Registration Command spoke with the Burgermeister, a local magistrate, of Arnoldstein, Austria, as well as with current and former police chiefs of Maglern, Austria. One witness stated the plane exploded when it crashed. The wreckage and remains found were allegedly taken to Klagenfurt, Austria, by German military.

With no further leads on Dickson’s case, a Board of Officers declared him non-recoverable on Sept. 29, 1949.

In January 2012 researchers with the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (a predecessor to DPAA) contacted Mr. Roland Domanig, an Austrian researcher who had recently reported the discovery of a separate crash site in northern Italy.

In April 2012, historians and analysts from DPMO and Joint Personnel Accounting Command (JPAC, also a predecessor to DPAA) met with Mr. Domanig and additional witnesses who had seen the crash and been to the crash site. The team subsequently visited the crash site, finding wreckage matching Dickson’s aircraft type in Austria.

From July 11 through Aug. 8, 2017, partnered with DPAA, the University of New Orleans and University of Innsbruck conducted an excavation of the crash site. Recovered remains were sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

To identify Dickson’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA), Y-chromosome (Y-STR) and autosomal (auSTR) DNA analysis, as well as anthropological analysis, and circumstantial and material evidence.

DPAA is grateful to the government and people of Austria, the University of New Orleans, which implemented the field school that conducted the recovery effort, the University of Innsbruck, which greatly assisted with the field school, the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, which provided key support to the field school, to include financial fellowships for participating students, and Mr. Roland Domanig, for their support in this recovery.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,776 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Dickson’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, along with the others missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

For funeral and family contact information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2498.

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) 699-1420/1169.

Dickson’s personnel profile can be viewed at
https://dpaa.secure.force.com/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000Xe6eEAC