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 Staff Sgt. Percy C. Mathews, 25, of Andalusia, Alabama, accounted for on March 26, will be buried June 28 in Pensacola, Florida. On May 29, 1943, Mathews was a member of the 422nd Bombardment Squadron, 305th Bombardment Group, 8th U.S. Air Force, participating in a strike against the German submarine base at Saint-Nazaire, France. The B-17 Mathews was aboard was hit by enemy fire as it left the target area. Mathews did not make it out of the bomber before it crashed. Survivors believed the aircraft crashed approximately 150 kilometers from Saint-Nazaire, near the French village of Quintin. German reports indicated one casualty was recovered from the wreckage of the plane, though no burial information was provided.
Following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) searched for and disinterred the remains of U.S. servicemen in Europe as part of the global effort to identify and return fallen servicemen. Remains that could not be identified were designated as unknowns and interred in U.S. overseas cemeteries. Beginning in 2010, DPAA and its predecessors digitized and began to analyze more than 8,000 files for Unknowns from WWII.
One set of unidentified remains, designated X-205 St. James, were disinterred from a cemetery in St. Brieuc, France, prior to Sept. 16, 1944. The remains could not be identified and were interred in the American cemetery at St. James, present day Brittany American Cemetery.
In May 2015, a French researcher, Daniel Dahiot, provided DPAA with a page from the St. Brieuc West Cemetery burial register, showing the names of Americans who were interred there during World War II, including Mathews. On April 4, 2017, following thorough historical research and analysis, by DPAA analysts, of unit records and AGRS recovery reports, X-205 was disinterred.
To identify Mathews’ remains, DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA), anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to Mr. Dahiot, the French government and 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 72,906 service members (approximately 26,000 assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Although interred as an "unknown" Mathews’ grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Mathews’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery in the United Kingdom, 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.