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News Release

Press Release | April 19, 2021

Pilot Accounted For From World War II (Melville, W.)

WASHINGTON  –   The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William H. Melville, 20, of Minneapolis, killed during World War II, was accounted for July 3, 2020.

In the fall of 1943, Melville was a pilot assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Group. On Oct. 28, he was piloting a P-39Q Airacobra fighter on a combat mission over the island of New Guinea, Australian Territory of Papua (current day Papua New Guinea), when his aircraft and two others disappeared after encountering severe weather. Search and recovery efforts in the days following were unable to find any of the aircraft.

Following the war, the American Graves Registration Service, the organization that searched for and recovered fallen American personnel, conducted exhaustive searches of battle areas and crash sites in New Guinea, concluding their search on Dec. 18, 1948. Investigators could not find any evidence of Melville or his aircraft, and he was officially reported as killed in action as of April 4, 1949. He was declared non-recoverable June 27, 1949.

Between 1987 and 2019, DPAA and its predecessor organizations conducted several investigation and recovery missions in Papua New Guinea related to Melville and the two other pilots. A recovery team in 2019 found possible human remains and a .50 caliber machine gun with a serial number matching one of the guns on Melville’s fighter, as well as other material evidence.

To identify Melville’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Melville’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Melville will be buried, with military honors, July 16, 2021, 10 a.m., at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis.

For family and funeral information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490.

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 or find us on social media at or

Melville’s personnel profile can be viewed at