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. Robert L. Mains, 27, of Rochester, New York, will be buried December 2 in Wading River, New York. In the spring of 1945, as the war in Europe drew to a close, Allied forces launched a series of aerial attacks to cripple what remained of the German air force. Mains, who was a member of the 714th Bombardment Squadron, 448th Bombardment Group, 2nd Bombardment Division, was a pilot on an attack mission on April 4, 1945, as one of more than 400 bombers to attack airbases at Parchim, Perleberg and Wesendorf, Germany. Mains’ aircraft, which held ten airmen, was attacked by enemy fighter planes in the vicinity of Hamburg.
Following the attack, the aircraft exploded and crashed, leaving only one survivor, who was subsequently captured after he parachuted into the town of Ludwigslust. Personal effects of eight of the nine missing crewmembers were found and identified by the surviving airman.
On August 15, 1997, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (now DPAA) investigative team travelled to Ludwigslust to locate a possible crash site. A local helped the team analyze a 1948 site sketch and align it with present-day landmarks. With this information, the team found aircraft wreckage.
In 2014 and 2015, multiple recovery teams excavated the site, finding osseous material. The remains were sent to DPAA for analysis.
To identify Mains’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the German government and the staff of the Ludwigslust Castle for their cooperation in this recovery mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,975 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Mains’ name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site. 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.