The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Air Forces Major Theodore Willhite, 26, of Muscatine, Iowa, killed during World War II, was accounted for Sept. 19, 2023.
In March of 1944, Willhite was assigned to the 724th Bombardment Squadron, 451st Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force in the Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations. On Mar 11, Willhite was piloting a B-24 “Liberator,” when it was struck by anti-aircraft fire after a bombing raid on a German position near Toulon, France. Eyewitnesses on another B-24 reported seeing Willhite’s aircraft spinning out of control at approximately 3000 feet before breaking apart and crashing into the sea. All 11 crewmembers aboard the aircraft were lost in the incident and not identified following the war.
Beginning in 1945, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), Army Quartermaster Corps, was the organization tasked with recovering missing American personnel in the European Theater. Following the war, the AGRC disinterred and identified seven sets of remains recovered from the Lagoubran Cemetery, at Toulon, France. At the time they were unable to identify Willhite and other crewmembers, and they were interred in the Rhône American Cemetery.
In 2019, DPAA investigators and American Battle Monuments Commission personnel exhumed the remains of X-84 Luynes, X-85 Luynes, X-86 Luynes, and X-92 Luynes and sent them to the DPAA laboratory for analysis and identification.
To identify Willhite’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Willhite’s name is memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at Rhône American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Draguignan, France, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Willhite will be buried at a place and time to be determined by the family.
For family and funeral 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 or find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.
Willhite’s personnel profile can be viewed at: https://dpaa-mil.sites.crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt000001kgHrgEAE.