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News Release

Press Release | June 9, 2017

Flying Tiger Pilot Killed During World War II Accounted For (Armstrong)

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. civilian unaccounted for since World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Mr. John D. Armstrong, 24, of Hutchinson, Kansas, will be buried June 17 in his hometown. In mid-1941, Armstrong, formerly in the U.S. Navy Reserve, was recruited to be among a small group of American pilots to battle Japanese forces invading China. He was employed with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company (CAMCO), which was officially termed the “American Volunteer Group,” (AVG) and popularly known as the “Flying Tigers.” The AVG consisted of three fighter squadrons, each with approximately 30 Curtiss P-40 single-seat aircraft. In September 1941, Armstrong was training with other AVG pilots at Kyedaw Airfield, a British Royal Air Force airfield outside of Toungoo, Burma. Though most of the recruits were experienced pilots, none had seen combat. To prepare them, the AVG instituted an aggressive training program, encouraging their pilots to carry out mock battles. Armstrong was killed during a training flight on Sept. 8, 1941, when his plane collided with another AVG member’s aircraft in midair. Armstrong was formally buried in the Airmen’s Cemetery at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Toungoo.

In late December 1947, an American Graves Registration Service team recovered the remains of three members of the AVG. The remains were declared unidentifiable and were temporarily interred in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Barrackpore, India in January, 1948. The unknown remains were eventually moved to Hawaii in an attempt to identify them, designated as X-633, X-634 and X-635, but identification was unsuccessful. They were reinterred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, as World War II Unknowns.

On April 11, 2016, due to advancements in forensic capabilities, unknown X-633 was disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.

To identify Armstrong’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched three nieces; as well as anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and 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, find us on social media at or call (703) 699-1420.