The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the
remains of a U.S. serviceman, from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his
family for burial with full military honors.
Army 1st Lt. John E. Terpning, of Mount Prospect, Ill., will be buried on April 3, in Arlington
National Cemetery near Washington D.C. On May 7, 1944, Terpning was a pilot of a B-24D Liberator
that departed Nadzab, New Guinea on a bombing mission. Due to mechanical troubles, the B-24D was
delayed in departing the airbase and was unable to join the formation after takeoff. Neither the aircraft,
Terpning, nor the nine other crewmen aboard the plane were seen after takeoff. In 1946, the War
Department declared all ten men to be presumed dead.
In 1973, a Papua New Guinea Forest Department official reported a wartime aircraft in the
mountains northeast of the city of Lae. In October 1973, a team of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
responded to the report and visited the site, where they found aircraft wreckage that corresponded to that
of a B-24D. At that time the RAAF recovered possible human remains, which were transferred to the
U.S. Army Mortuary in Tachikawa, Japan; however, given the limited technology at the time, no human
remains were individually identified. In 1974, the remains were buried as a group at Arlington National
In April 2008, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) team was sent to investigate and
survey the crash site. The team recovered aircraft wreckage, including a radio call sign data plate that
matched the aircraft, from a B-24D and additional remains.
To identify the remains, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification
Laboratory used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools such as dental comparisons
and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Terpning’s brother.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died. At the end of
the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans.
Today, more than 73,000 are unaccounted-for from the conflict.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing
Americans, visit the DPMO web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.