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News & Stories
News | Dec. 1, 2022

Agency accounts for last WWII POWs from Lithuania


As 2022 comes to a close, three families are ending the year knowing that after decades of waiting a loved one has been brought home and laid to rest. A promise fulfilled.

The three Airmen were German prisoners of war in World War II in what is now the nation of Lithuania. With these heroes accounted for and the families receiving answers, all missing Americans from that country have been recovered and returned to their families.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) partnered with the Ohio Valley Archeology, Inc. (OVAI) in 2019, they investigated a sight in current day Lithuania finding possible gravesites for three missing Americans.

A Lithuanian archeological group called Kulturos Vertybiu Globa (Guardianship of Cultural Values) was also active in the area and was planning an excavation of Polish and Lithuanian remains near Stagag Luft 6. DPAA partnered with them to excavate the possible gravesites. In September 2021, remains were recovered and transferred to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska for analysis.

“I think this is a really interesting story,” said Dr. Edward Burton, DPAA historian. “It shows first that we’re really resourceful, and second, that we are tenacious, and third, it shows some really courageous behavior on behalf of our veterans. “

Stalag Luft 6 was a prison camp during World War II. In 1955 the Soviet Union destroyed the prison camp and reverted the area back to farmland.

The last three missing Americans from the camp were:

U.S. Army Air Forces Tech. Sgt. William F. Teaff, 26, of Steubenville, Ohio, accounted for April 20, 2022. In the spring of 1944, Teaff was assigned to the 351st Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 8th Air Force. On March 6, he was the radio operator aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber that was part of a larger mission to bomb targets in Berlin. German fighters attacked the B-17’s formation while it flew over The Netherlands, and Teaff’s plane was destroyed. The entire crew except for the navigator, who was killed when the plane was hit, was able to bail out before the B-17 blew up in the sky. The crew was captured by the Germans and several of them, including Teaff, were sent to Stalag Luft 6, a prisoner of war camp in Heydekrug, Germany. He died July 10 in the nearby village of Matzicken, Lithuania, where he was receiving medical treatment for diphtheria.
U.S Army Air Force Staff Sgt. George B. Walker, 25, of Spartanburg, South Carolina, accounted for June 21, 2022. In the winter of 1944, Walker was assigned to the 369th Bombardment Squadron, 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 8th Air Force. On Feb. 3, he was the engineer and turret gunner aboard a B-17G Flying Fortress bomber that was part of a large bombing mission against the Wilhelmshaven Naval Shipyard in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. When the formation was flying near Oldenburg, it came under anti-aircraft fire. Even though there was no obvious damage, Walker’s bomber began to lag behind the formation as it experienced general mechanical failure. The pilot flew the B-17 over the water and the crew bailed out. Germans captured several of the crew, including Walker, who was sent to Stalag Luft 6, a prisoner of war camp in Heydekrug, Germany. He died April 28 when he was shot while trying to escape.

U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Walter Nies, 23, of Eureka, South Dakota, accounted for August 2, 2022. In the winter of 1944, Nies was assigned to the 96th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group (Heavy), 15th Air Force. On January 24, he was the tail gunner aboard a B-17F Flying Fortress bomber that was part bombardment mission to Sofia, Bulgaria. German fighters attacked the B-17’s formation over Yugoslavia while it was attempting to return to its home base in Italy. The attack was largely ineffectual, but Nies’ aircraft began having engine trouble shortly after and was forced to crash land on a beach near Ulcinj, Montenegro. The crew was captured by the Germans and all of the enlisted men, including Nies, were sent to Stalag Luft 6, a prisoner of war camp in Heydekrug, Germany. Nies was one of only three Americans who died in that POW camp. He died May 28 after being shot. German reports said he was trying to escape, but U.S. prisoner testimony following the war claimed he had been shot while on his way to the latrine in the early morning before the prisoners’ nightly lockdown had been lifted.

Despite being prisoners of war each one of them was given a military burial, Dr. Burton mentioned. “I went through the war crime files; I found negatives, the original German negatives from the original funeral. It shows a handmade fence around it and a real grove of trees, so someone was at least trying to make an effort to make it look nice.”

Walker was one of the most talked about incidents from Stalage Luft 6. It is reported that from the day he arrived he was asking questions like do you think we can break out; do you think we can get away, said Dr. Burton. He and another American snuck out of their barracks, late at night, with a homemade map with some provisional wire cutters.
They were surrounded by German guards that came running when the alarm was sounded. Unfortunately, they were caught. Despite warnings from his fellow prisoner not to move, Walker, while surrendering, tried to stand up and was shot and killed, Dr. Burton continued.

Walker’s Grandson, Bobby B. Walker Jr., talks about learning about his Grandfather’s military service.

“We bout gave up on him, he was interred once at the prison camp that he was killed at, said Bobby. “They knew about where he was buried but when the soviets came through there, what is now Lithuania, they killed so many people around the surrounding area there, the cemetery filled up.

“I’ve heard of veterans that are recovered and sent home after years but we never thought, we had no idea till they out of the blue contacted us wanting to know if we would be willing to take a DNA test just in case and it wound up being him,” Bobby said.
He went on to say he and his sister have been able to find closure in the recovery and being able to bring home their grandfather.

“I’m just proud of him, I’ve been in contact with different Veterans groups,” Bobby said. “I tell everyone now that if they know anybody that has family members there is someone out there looking for them right now, that’s what they told me, and I believe it.”

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Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency PAO
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2300 Defense Pentagon
Attn: Outreach and Communications
Washington, D.C. 20301-2300