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Tue, May 16, 2023

WWII Airman Identified and Laid to Rest

Eighty Years an Unknown

The U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) has accounted for U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant Ralph D. Kolb of McGehee, Arkansas.

After eighty long years among the Second World War’s unknown and heroic dead, Sergeant Kolb—who was killed in action in 1943 at age 19—will be laid to rest in his hometown on 14 June 2023.

In the summer of 1943, Kolb was assigned to the 343rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force. On 01 August 1943, the B-24 Liberator bomber aboard which the young staff sergeant served as an assistant radio operator was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire and went down during Operation Tidal Wave—an Allied bombing initiative carried out by Libyan-based U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) aircraft against nine oil refineries in the vicinity of Ploie?ti, Romania. By dint of the skill and courage of the officers and men by which it was carried out, Operation Tidal Wave denied petroleum fuels to the Axis enemy, thereby helping turn the war’s tide in favor of the Allies.

After the fashion of legions of allied airman, sailors, and soldiers whose remains went undiscovered or unidentified during and after WWII, Sergeant Kolb was interred amongst the Unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania.

Following the War, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), the section tasked with searching for and recovering the remains of fallen American warfighters, exhumed the entirety of the American personnel interred at the Bolovan Cemetery for identification. The AGRC subsequently identified more than eighty of the cemetery’s unknowns—the remains of which were reinterred in Belgium’s Ardennes American and Henri-Chapelle American Cemeteries.

In 2017, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency commenced exhuming unknowns believed to have been party to Operation Tidal Wave. Subject remains were sent to the DPAA Laboratory for examination and identification.

Staffed by upwards of thirty anthropologists, archaeologists, and forensic odontologists, the DPAA Laboratory is the world’s preeminent skeletal identification laboratory.

Employing an investigative battery comprising material and circumstantial evidence as well as anthropological, mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA analyses, scientists and technicians of the DPAA laboratory and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System identified Sergeant Kolb’s remains.

For his participation in Operation Tidal Wave, Staff Sergeant Ralph D. Kolb was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

FMI: www.dpaa.mil

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