The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today
that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from World War II, have been identified
and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Emil T. Wasilewski, 22, of Chicago, will be buried on June 26, at
Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. On Sept. 13, 1944, Wasilewski and eight
other crew members were on a B-17G Flying Fortress that crashed near Neustaedt-on-the-Werra,
Germany. Only one of the crewmen is known to have successfully parachuted out of the aircraft
before in crashed. The remaining eight crewmen were buried by German forces in a cemetery in
Following the war, U.S. Army Graves Registration personnel attempted to recover the
remains of the eight men, but were only able to move the remains of one man to a U.S. military
cemetery in Holland. In 1953, with access to eastern Germany restricted by the Soviet Union, the
remains of the seven remaining unaccounted-for crewmen—including Wasilewski—were
In 1991, a German national who was digging a grave in the cemetery in Neustaedt,
discovered a metal U.S. military identification tag and notified officials. German burial law
restricted further site investigation until 2007, when the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
(JPAC) surveyed the area. In 2008, the site was excavated and the team recovered human
remains and military equipment.
Scientists from the JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used
forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, including dental comparisons and ychromosome
DNA—which matched that of Wasilewski’s nephew—in the identification of his
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) 699-1420.