WWII Soldier Identified (McKain)

Release No: 13-025 June 14, 2013 PRINT | E-MAIL

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, who was lost during World War II, have been identified and will be burial with full military honors.

Army Staff Sgt. James M. McKain, of Philadelphia, Pa., will be buried on June 20, in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. On May 7, 1944, McKain was aboard 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 McKain, 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, an official from the Papua New Guinea Forest Department reported finding a wartime aircraft in the mountains northwest of the city of Lae. In October 1973, a team from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) responded to the report and visited the site, where they found aircraft wreckage that corresponded to a U.S. military B-24D. The RAAF recovered possible human remains, which were transferred to the U.S. Army Mortuary in Tachikawa, Japan. Given the limited technology at the time, the remains could not be individually identified. In 1974, the remains of the crew were buried as a group at Arlington National Cemetery.

In April 2008, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) team investigated and surveyed the crash site. The team recovered additional remains and aircraft wreckage, including a radio callsign data plate that matched the crews B-24D.

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 McKain’s niece, grand-niece, and grand-nephew.

Today there are more than 400,000 American service members that were killed during WWII, the remains of more than 73,000 were never recovered or identified.

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.