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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. Oxford, 24, of Concord, Georgia, will be buried June 11 in his hometown. On Jan. 25, 1944, Oxford was a member of 425th Bomb Squadron, 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, aboard a B-24J Liberator aircraft, departing Kunming, China on a supply mission to Chabua, India. Despite initially favorable weather, conditions deteriorated rapidly and the aircraft failed to arrive at its destination. Four other aircraft were also lost during their approach to Chabua. Due to inability to pinpoint a loss location, no search efforts were initiated. The War Department Adjutant General’s Office declared Oxford deceased as of Jan. 26, 1946. Oxford’s name was memorialized by the American Battle Monuments Commission, who included his name on the Tablets of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, the Philippines.
In late 2006, American Clayton Kuhles, hiking in northeast India located a site containing aircraft wreckage near Damro Village, Arunachal Pradesh Province. He located a wing and a panel, which correlated with a B-24J aircraft, call sign “Hot as Hell,” and reported the finding to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (now DPAA.)
In the fall of 2008, the Government of India granted access to the location and a team conducted a survey of the site, confirming the crash site correlated with the missing aircraft.
In early 2009, a Joint Field Activity (JFA) recovery team returned to the site to begin excavation, but due to adverse weather, work was suspended until November 2009. No osseous material was recovered at that time.
Due to access issues and security concerns, further recovery operations did not resume until late 2015. During a JFA mission in October 2015, a DPAA team recovered possible human remains and after review by the Government of India, DPAA received them into the Laboratory on April 14, 2016.
To identify Oxford’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, which matched a niece and a nephew, Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR), which matched a nephew, laboratory analysis, including dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, as well as circumstantial evidence.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 73,057 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.