The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, killed during World War II, have been identified as those of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. John D. Crouchley, Jr. Crouchley, 26, born in Providence, Rhode Island, was accounted for on August 31.
In June 1944, Crouchley served as a pilot with the 828th Bombardment Squadron, 485th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force. On June 28, 1944, Crouchley was lost when his B-24H aircraft was shot down and crashed during a combat mission over Romania. The other nine crewmembers of the aircraft parachuted safely, were captured as prisoners of war in Bulgaria, and subsequently returned to duty. Only Crouchley, who stayed at the controls of the plane, keeping it in steady flight while the rest of the crew bailed out, remained unaccounted for. Because the crash occurred in enemy territory, American personnel were not able to conduct an immediate search, and Bulgaria provided no evidence that his remains were recovered or buried. Based on no further information of his status, he was declared deceased as of June 29, 1945.
Following the close of hostilities, the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) searched for and disinterred the remains of U.S. service members who were killed in battle. Investigators compared Crouchley’s medical information to unidentified remains recovered in Bulgaria, but a positive match could not be made. On July 2, 1948, Crouchley’s remains were declared non-recoverable.
In 2010, an investigation team of analysts from the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (both predecessors of DPAA) conducted a site survey of the alleged crash site and interviewed potential witnesses. The site was consistent with the historical loss records, as well as eyewitness accounts. The team recovered weaponry bearing the serial number that correlated with Crouchley’s aircraft.
From July to September 2017, a DPAA recovery team excavated the crash site, overlooking the village of Churen. The team recovered possible osseous remains and material evidence. The remains were accessioned to the laboratory for analysis.
To identify Crouchley’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to Colonel Stanimir Stanev, Bulgarian Army, Retired, Jerry Whiting, historian for the 485th Bombardment Group, and the Bulgarian Government 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 72,866 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Crouchley’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruenta, Italy, along with others missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
For family contact information, contact the Army Service Casualty office at (800) 892-2490.
Crouchley will be buried May 4, 2019, in Bristol, Rhode Island.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call (703) 699-1420/1169.