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 Air Forces 1st Lt. Robert E. Moessner, 24, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, will be buried April 5 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. On April 18, 1944, Moessner was the bombardier of a B-24 aircraft out of Kwelin, China, and was shot down near Hong Kong, along with eleven other crewmembers onboard. The aircraft had been conducting a sea sweep and encountered a Japanese merchant ship and escorting destroyer. After making two passes, they withdrew under heavy fire, but were subsequently shot down by Japanese fighters. The pilot crashed the aircraft into shallow water of Hong Kong harbor, and it broke apart. Two crewmembers survived and were captured by the Japanese. Upon their release at the conclusion of the war, they reported that Moessner went down with the aircraft.
In the days following the crash, the Japanese salvaged the wreckage and recovered two bodies. Local residents also found bodies near the shore. At the end of hostilities, Army Graves Registration Service (AGRS) recovered the remains and took them into custody. Three sets were eventually identified and the fourth was buried as an “Unknown” in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
In August 2005, based on advances in DNA technology the grave was exhumed and sent to the lab for analysis.
To identify Moessner’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used circumstantial evidence, as well Next-Generation Sequencing to make a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) match to a maternal family member.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently, there are 73,074 service members still unaccounted for from World War II.
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.