The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, recently accounted for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Sgt. Richard G. Sowell, 21, of West Palm Beach, Florida, will be buried November 10 in his hometown. In July 1944, Sowell was a member of 295th Joint Assault Signal Company, Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 106th Infantry, when American forces participated in the battle for the island Saipan, part of a larger operation to secure the Mariana Islands. Sowell, a spotter for the signal company, was last known to be in the vicinity of Hill 721 on the island of Saipan, which was under heavy attack by the Japanese on July 6-7, 1944. On the morning of July 7, the commanding officer of 106th Infantry reported that Sowell was killed in action.
In 1947 and 1948, the American Graves Registration Service Search and Recovery teams covered the island in search of missing Americans, though Sowell was not found. In June 1949, an ordnance officer with the U.S. Army Garrison Force on Saipan discovered remains in a foxhole, believed to be those of an American service member. The remains were transported to the Army-Navy mortuary on Saipan and were transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, where they were designated “Unknown X-29 Saipan. Due to insufficient evidence, the remains could not be identified and were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
After a thorough historical and scientific analysis, it was determined that X-29 could likely be identified. After receiving approval, on August 20, 2015, Unknown X-29 was disinterred and sent to the laboratory for analysis.
To identify Sowell’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used Y-chromosome (Y-STR) DNA, which matched his family members; as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched Sowell’s records; and historical evidence.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,977 service members still unaccounted for from World War II (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable). Sowell’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an ABMC site along with the other MIAs from WWII. 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.