The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, 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 1st Lt. William W. Shank, 24, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, accounted for on March 5, will be buried July 14 in his hometown. On Nov. 13, 1943, Shank was a pilot with the 338th Fighter Squadron, 55th Fighter Group, 66th Fighter Wing, 8th Fighter Command, 8th Air Force, flying his P-38 on a mission to Bremen, Germany. Shank was killed after engaging in fierce enemy action.
In June 1948, the American Graves Registration Command recovered partial remains from a P-38 crash site at Osteressen, Germany, however they were declared unidentifiable, designated as X-7466 and buried as an Unknown at Ardennes American Cemetery, Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium.
On May 29, 2008, historians from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC, a predecessor to DPAA) met with a local German researcher, Mr. Werner Oeltjebruns, who said he could identify Shank’s crash site. The team visited the crash site in Osteressen, where material evidence of a crash site remained.
In 2016, a DPAA recovery team conducted an excavation of the Osteressen site, where they recovered possible osseous material. Simultaneously, after thorough historical research and analysis, DPAA disinterred X-7466 from Neuville.
To identify Shank’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, as well anthropological analysis and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to Mr. Oeltjebruns and the American Battle Monuments Commission for their assistance with this disinterment and recovery, as well as the German government for their partnership.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,906 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Shank’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission in the United Kingdom, 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) 699-1420/1169.