The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, accounted-for from World War II, are those of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Ottaway B. Cornwell, 22, of Houston. Cornwell was accounted for on July 25, 2018.
On January 27, 1944, Cornwell was a member of the 4th Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Group, Twelfth (XII) Air Force, piloting a Supermarine Spitfire aircraft, which was shot down over Pierrefeu-du-Var, France. Cornwell was engaged in battle with a German Messerschmitt 109 (Me-109). Another pilot also engaged in battle witnessed two unidentified aircraft crash into the side of a mountain several miles northeast of Grande Bastide. Cornwell could not be reached through radio contact. Because southern France was occupied by enemy forces, an immediate search could not be conducted. After Allied forces liberated the area, they were unable to locate Cornwell’s remains.
In October 2016, French researcher Mr. Steve Leleu contacted DPAA about a possible aircraft crash site near his home in the village of Pierrefeu-du-Var, France. In a February 3, 1944 document provided by Leleu, the Prefecture of Var reported that two American airplanes were shot down near the aerodrome at Cuers, France. A French report from Jan. 3, 1944, also from the Prefecture of Var, discussed the burials of two American aviators.
Leleu reported recovery of a large amount of evidence, including aircraft parts, personnel equipment and possible remains.
In June 2017, DPAA’s Europe-Mediterranean Regional Directorate Investigation Team conducted a field investigation, confirmed the evidence from Leleu, and took possession of the remains.
To identify Cornwell’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome (Y-STR) DNA analysis, dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the French government and Mr. Steve Leleu for their assistance 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 72,772 (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Cornwell’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 others missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
For funeral and family contact information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490.
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.