The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, accounted-for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Eugene P. Ford, 21, of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, accounted for on Jan. 16, 2018, will be buried December 4 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. On Dec. 17, 1944, Ford was the a member of the 765th Bombardment Squadron, 461st Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, as the pilot of a B-24J aircraft known as The Tulsamerican. Accompanied by a crew of nine service members, the Tulsamerican was the lead aircraft in a group of six B-24s from the squadron to participate in a combat bombing mission targeting oil refineries at Odertal, Germany. Coming out of a cloud bank near the target, the aircraft were attacked by more than 40 German Me-109 and FW-190 fighters. The unit suffered heavy losses with three of their six aircraft shot down and the other three damaged. The Tulsamerican sustained heavy damage, forcing Ford to abort the mission and crash land in the Adriatic Sea, near the Isle of Vis, in present-day Croatia. Seven crewmembers of the aircraft survived and were rescued, however three, including Ford, were killed in the crash, and their bodies were unable to be recovered.
In 1947, the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) searched the coastline of Italy and Yugoslavia for remains. Gathering no further information on the location of Ford, on March 23, 1949, his remains were declared non-recoverable.
In December 2009, a diver from Korcula Island discovered aircraft debris off the coast of the Isle of Vis. He contacted the Croatian Conservation Institute, which sent two dive expeditions to photodocument the wreckage, however, they were unable to identify the aircraft. On May 31, 2010, divers on a third dive discovered a data plate with numbers matching Ford’s aircraft.
In June and July 2017, DPAA utilized a joint recovery team from Lund University in Sweden and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in cooperation with the Croatian Navy, conduct an underwater recovery mission at the crash site, recovering possible osseous remains and personal equipment.
To identify Ford’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA and autosomal (auSTR) DNA analysis, dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the divers who discovered the crash site, as well as the Croatian Government (especially the Croatian Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Veterans Affairs, and Ministry of Culture), the Croatian Conservation Institute, the University of Zadar, Lund University, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the National Park Service and the Croatian Navy, most especially the Captain and Crew of the DBM-82 Krka, for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,781 service members (approximately 26,000 assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Ford’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Italy, an American Battle Monuments Commission site. 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.