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 2nd Lt. William H. Harth, Jr., 22, of Columbia, South Carolina, accounted for on Nov. 3, 2017, will be buried April 6 in his hometown. In the summer of 1943, Harth was a bombardier assigned to the 329th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), which was known as “The Traveling Circus.” On Aug. 1, 1943, he served on a B-24D aircraft, nicknamed “Hell’s Angels,” when he was participating in a historic mission, code-named Operation TIDAL WAVE, which was the first large-scale, low-altitude attack by U.S. heavy bomber aircraft on Ploesti, Romania. As Harth’s aircraft approached Ploesti, it was hit by German anti-aircraft fire. He was declared missing in action when his aircraft failed to return following the mission.
In the days following the bombing raid, Romanian officials and civilians recovered and interred the remains of the deceased American Airmen in the Hero Section of the Bolovan Cemetery.
In 1946 and 1947, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) teams disinterred the remains of Americans killed in the raid, and reinterred them in the American Military Cemetery at Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium (now known as Ardennes American Cemetery). The AGRC was able to identify 145 Airmen killed during Operation TIDAL WAVE, including three of Harth’s crewmates, however he was listed as non-recoverable. One set of unidentified remains was listed as Unknown X-5192 Neuville.
After a thorough historical and scientific analysis, it was determined that X-5192 could likely be identified. After receiving approval, on April 11, 2017, Unknown X-5192 was disinterred from Neuville and sent to DPAA for analysis.
To identify Harth’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as dental comparisons and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and circumstantial evidence.
DPAA is appreciative to the American Battle Monuments Commission 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 72,948 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Harth’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Italy, an American Battle Monuments Commission site, along with the others who are missing from the World War II. 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.