The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, unaccounted for since World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pvt. Rudolph Johnson, 20, of Malvern, Arkansas, will be buried March 23 in Little Rock, Arkansas. In February 1945, Johnson was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 365th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division. In an era of racial segregation, the 92nd ID was the only African-American division to fight in Europe. The unit fought on the western most portion of the Gothic Line in northern Italy. Its zone of operations consisted of two contiguous sectors; one sector along the Ligurian Sea coastline and the other in the Serchio River Valley. As part of Operation Fourth Term, Johnson’s regiment fought for days to secure positions along the Lama di Sotto ridge against strong German counterattacks. Johnson was reported missing in action as of Feb. 6, 1945. The War Department changed his status to killed in action on Feb. 21. 1945.
On May 9, 1947, American Graves Registration Service personnel recovered a set of remains designated as “Unknown X-298” in the vicinity of Lama di Sotto, Italy. They recovered a second set of remains in the same investigation and identified them as another member of Johnson’s regiment. Unknown X-298 could not be identified and was buried at the United States Military Cemetery at Castelfiorentino, Italy on May 14, 1947.
On Sept. 17, 1948, the American Graves Registration Services personnel disinterred Unknown X-298 and tried unsuccessfully to make an identification. The remains were reinterred in the USMC Florence American Cemetery on Dec. 16, 1949.
Researchers at DPAA conducted a thorough historical and scientific analysis, and determined that X-298 could likely be identified. After receiving approval, on June 13, 2016, X-298 was disinterred and sent to DPAA for analysis.
To identify Johnson’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and historical evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,948 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Johnson’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, in Italy, an American Battle Monuments Commission site, along with the other MIAs from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
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.