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 Capt. Elwood J. Euart, 28, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, will be buried August 31 in his hometown. On Oct. 26, 1942, Euart was assigned to Headquarters, 103rd Field Artillery Battalion, 43rd Infantry Division, aboard the U.S. Army Transport (USAT) President Coolidge, when it entered a minefield near Espiritu Santo Island, New Hebrides, in the Republic of Vanuatu. The ship struck two mines, and immediately began listing, then was subsequently beached by the captain on the nearby coral reef to aid in the ship’s evacuation. Euart, hearing that men were trapped inside, entered the sinking ship, and helped all of the trapped men escape. An hour after the first mine detonated, the ship rolled and slid off the reef, sinking. Euart was unable to extricate himself and went down with the ship. Euart was one of only two crewmen lost of the approximately 5,000 troops aboard the ship.
In August 1948, a search team from the U.S. Army’s 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company visited Espiritu Santo Island to investigate and recover personnel from underwater losses, including the USAT President Coolidge. However, due to depths involved, they were unable to investigate or recover any remains from that ship. Based on this information, on Sept. 23, 1948, the Army declared Euart’s remains non-recoverable.
In 1953, the sunken hulk of the USAT President Coolidge was sold for salvage, and the area became a world-class diving destination. In 2012, divers reported finding human remains inside the ship and hid them deep into the silt to keep them safe. In 2014, a JPAC underwater recovery leader accompanied a tour company diver, who pulled possible human remains out of the silt.
In March 2015, an underwater recovery team from DPAA recovered additional possible human remains and material evidence from inside the ship.
To identify Euart’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial and Y-Short Tandem Repeat DNA analysis, which matched three nephews; laboratory analysis, including dental and anthropological analysis, which matched Euart’s records; and circumstantial and material evidence.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.
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.