Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Francis J. Pitonyak, missing from World War II, has now been accounted for.
On Oct. 28, 1943, Pitonyak was a member of the 36th Fighter Group, 8th Fighter squadron and was the pilot of a single-seat fighter aircraft. Pitonyak led a formation of four aircraft from Wards Airdome near Port Moresby, Territory of Papua on an armed patrol mission to Nadzab in the Markham River Valley. Due to rapidly deteriorating weather conditions and loss of visibility one of the four pilots aborted the mission, returned to base and immediately reported the other three pilots missing, The following day, an aerial search was conducted for the missing aircraft, with no results. The U.S. Army declared Pitonyak deceased as of Oct. 28, 1943.
The American Battle Monuments Commission memorialized Pitonyak by including his name on the Tablets of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines.
In June 1987, a team of investigators from the U.S Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, accompanied by local witnesses, located the wreckage of an aircraft in the vicinity of Ulreal Village, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea. The wreckage, which was largely intact, included a serial number consistent with the aircraft piloted by Pitonyak. In October 1988, a second team visited the crash site and noted the positioning of the wreckage suggested a low-angle controlled impact or hard landing, but they were unable to recover remains or flight equipment. In July 2016, a DPAA recovery team recovered possible dental remains and supporting material evidence from a site located in the vicinity of Urulau Village, Kerema District, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea.
Laboratory analysis and circumstantial evidence were used in the identification of his remains.
Interment services are pending.