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 1st Lt. Harry W. Eck, of Minot Ward, N.D. On Sept. 13, 1944, Eck 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 Neustaedt.
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 unaccounted for crewmen were declared Non-Recoverable.
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. Due to German burial
law, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) wasn’t granted access to the site until 2007
and excavated the location in 2008. The team recovered human remains and additional metal
identification tags from three of the crewmembers.
To identify Eck’s remains, scientists from the JPAC used forensic identification tools and
circumstantial evidence, including dental comparisons. Additionally, the Armed Forces DNA
Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA— which matched that of Eck’s cousin — in
the identification of his remains.
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.