The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, accounted-for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Martin F. O’Callaghan, Jr., 22, of Memphis, Tennessee, accounted for on April 24, 2018, will be buried November 5 in his hometown. In February 1945, O’Callaghan was a pilot with the 96th Fighter Squadron, 82nd Fighter Group, on a mission to strafe targets near Maribor, Yugoslavia, now Slovenia. While attacking locomotives near a railway station, O’Callaghan’s P-38 Lightning aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft fire. He radioed his squadron-mates to say that he might attempt to bail out of the aircraft, however, according to witnesses, he attempted to land the aircraft in a field southeast of Maribor. As he was attempting to land, the aircraft inverted, crashed and burst into flames. Because Yugoslavia was an occupied territory at the time, no immediate search for his remains could be conducted.
In July 1947, a team from the American Graves Registration Service office in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, traveled to the village of Cirkovce to investigate a report that a U.S. service member had been buried there during the war. The local government, the People’s Committee of Ptuj, told the AGRS that a Lightning aircraft crashed near Cirkovce after being shot down. According to locals, the pilot was killed in the crash and his remains were buried in the cemetery at Cirkovce. The remains were designated Unknown X-36 and buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Belgrade.
In 1948, based on serial number association, X-36 was recommended for possible identification. However, the evidence was not conclusive and in April 1949, Unknown X-36 was interred at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, in Nettuno, Italy.
In May 2016, based on thorough research and historical analysis, an investigation was initiated linking O’Callaghan’s remains to X-36. On March 16, 2017, the remains of Unknown X-36 Belgrade were disinterred and accessioned to the DPAA laboratory.
To identify O’Callaghan’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, as well as anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence
DPAA is grateful to the American Battle Monuments Commission for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,790 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. O’Callaghan’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, along with the other MIAs from WWII. Although interred as an "unknown”, his grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission. 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) 699-1420/1169.