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 Air Forces 1st Lt. Homer A. Spence, 22, of Manteca, California, will be buried November 18 in his hometown. On July 20, 1944, Spence was a member of the 96th Fighter Squadron, 82nd Fighter Group, as a pilot of a P-38J aircraft, escorting bomber aircraft on a mission targeting Memmingen Airdrome in Germany. During the return flight, his aircraft entered a deep dive into the clouds and was not seen or heard from again. At the time of his loss, Austria and northern Italy were still under enemy control, precluding any immediate search to locate his crash site.
In September 2010, personnel from the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO- a predecessor to DPAA) were contacted by a private researcher who found aircraft wreckage of what he believed to be a P-38, at a site on Heidenberg Mountain near Bruneck, Italy. Research and exclusionary analysis indicated that Spence’s aircraft was the only known aircraft of that type lost in the summer of 1944 within 50 kilometers of the crash site.
In April 2012, a joint DPMO and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC- a predecessor to DPAA) team investigated the crash site and identified a wide debris field of aircraft wreckage.
In September 2015 and September and October 2016, recovery teams returned to the crash site and excavated the surrounding areas, recovering osseous remains and personal equipment. The remains were subsequently sent to DPAA for analysis.
In July and August 2017, through a partnership with Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, Incorporated (ACH), additional remains and evidence were recovered.
To identify Spence’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis which matched his family, as well as anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, Inc., for their partnership in this recovery.
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 (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Spence’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission 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.