The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from World War II, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Robert W. Ward, 22, of Pontiac, Michigan, will be buried Oct. 1 in his hometown. On Dec. 23, 1944, Ward was assigned to the 559th Bombardment Squadron, 387th Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force. Ward was the co-pilot of a B-26C Marauder, with eight other crew members, that crashed after being struck by enemy fire while on a bombing mission against enemy forces near Philippsweiler, Germany. Ward and one other of the nine-member crew were reported killed in action. The other seven crewmen survived the crash by parachuting to safety; however, one crewman was captured by enemy forces and was reported to have died in captivity. His remains were later returned to U.S. custody. Ward and the other crewman killed in action were not recovered during the war.
In April 2009, a Department of Defense (DoD) team traveled to Philippsweiler to interview several Germans who recalled an American war-time crash. The team surveyed the possible crash site. Between June 2010 and July 2011, two DoD recovery teams excavated the suspected crash site, recovering human remains and aircraft wreckage.
To identify Ward’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used forensic identification tools to include mitochondrial DNA, which matched his nieces.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died. Today, more than 73,000 are unaccounted for from the conflict.
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, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420.