Two search-and-recovery teams from the U.S. Army’s Central Identification Laboratory will be in Germany this week to search for the remains of American aviators lost during World War II.
One 13-member team heads to an area in Westeregeln, to conduct recovery operations, then moves to Elsnig to investigate a possible crash site, laboratory spokeswoman Ginger Couden said in a news release.
The recovery effort in Westeregeln will concentrate on the remains of nine crewmen who were aboard a B-24J Liberator bomber shot down in the summer of 1944. Assigned to the 856th Bombardment Squadron, 492nd Bombardment Group, the aircraft went down during a mission near Bernberg. Historical records indicate German aircraft attacked and destroyed a formation of 13 B-24s.
Once the recovery mission is completed, the laboratory team will move to Elsnig to investigate the loss of a Lockheed P-38J Lightning pilot from the 428th Fighter Squadron, 474th Fighter Group lost during a dive-bombing mission in April 1945.
Last April, the laboratory received information on the possible crash site, Couden said. The site is believed to be in what once was a restricted area of the former East Germany.
Another laboratory team consisting of a team leader, team sergeant, medic, a forensic anthropologist, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, a photographer and three mortuary affairs specialists will leave Hawaii on Friday for Belgium.
That 10-member team will excavate a crash site in Retie, Belgium, then travel to several isolated burial sites in Shepr, Albania.
The recovery mission in Belgium is for a missing pilot of a C-47A Skytrain from the 9th Troop Carrier Command who was shot down in the fall of 1944.
Shortly after take-off from the United Kingdom on a paradrop mission, the aircraft crossed enemy lines and sustained a direct hit from small-arms anti-aircraft fire. The aircraft crashed and 14 on board were accounted for, but the pilot was not.
In Albania, the team will focus on locating the missing crew of a C-47A from the 28th Troop Carrier Squadron, 60th Troop Carrier Group that crashed in 1944 while conducting a resupply mission to Albania.
The aircraft and its crew of five Americans and one British soldier went down in a mountainous region. Couden said reports indicate that several days after the crash, Albanian partisans recovered remains from the crash site and buried the group with honors in a churchyard.
Following the war, Couden said, access for recovery teams into Albania was restricted, but the laboratory recently learned of the location of the burials.
After completing the European missions, the team will return to the laboratory’s Hawaii facility where the largest staff of forensic anthropologists in the world will begin analysis on the recovered remains and artifacts.
The recovery and identification process may take years, Couden said.
Laboratory specialists identified more than 1,120 individuals previously listed as unaccounted-for since the laboratory began operations in 1973.