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News Release

Press Release | Oct. 11, 2016

Airman Missing From World War II Accounted For (Beals)

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 1st Lt. Donald L. Beals, 22, of Brookings, South Dakota, will be buried Oct. 17 in Arlington National Cemetery. On April 17, 1945, Beals was assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron, 48th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force, and was the pilot of a single-seat P-47D “Thunderbolt,” on an armed reconnaissance mission near Dresden, Germany. En route to the target area, Beals reported that he had spotted enemy aircraft on the ground near Lonnewitz, Germany, and was instructed to attack. As Beals and his squadron leader began to dive, he was struck by intense anti-aircraft fire. He was reported missing in action subsequent to this attack, and declared dead on April 18, 1946.

In July 1947, the American Graves Registration Command investigating Beals’ case was informed by witnesses that an American aircraft had crashed and exploded at a site where the investigator found aircraft wreckage and machine guns, whose serial numbers corresponded to the weapons in Beals’ aircraft. The investigator could not identify any human remains at the crash site and concluded Beals’ remains had disintegrated in the explosion, and were therefore non-recoverable.

In June 2004, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command investigation team in the area of Dresden was directed to a crash site by two German researchers who had located aircraft wreckage consistent with the missing aircraft.

Between April and August 2014, four recovery missions were conducted and fragments of osseous material, material evidence and personal equipment were recovered.

To identify Beals’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched a brother and a sister, as well as anthropological and circumstantial evidence.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.

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, find us on social media at or call (703) 699-1420.