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Remains of B-24 Pilot Lost in 1943 Identified

Hero Aviator to be Interred in New York

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced on 19 April 2023 that U.S. Army Air Forces First Lieutenant John B. Thomas of Rochester, New York, who lost his life at age 23 fighting in the Second World War’s European Theater, had been accounted for on 30 September 2022.

In the summer of 1943, Lieutenant Thomas was assigned to the U.S. Army Air Force’s (USAAF) 345th Heavy Bombardment Squadron, 98th Heavy Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force. On 01 August, while taking part in Operation Tidal Wave, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber under Lieutenant Thomas’s command was brought down by enemy anti-aircraft fire.

Operation Tidal Wave was an Allied bombing initiative carried out by Libyan-based USAAF aircraft against nine oil refineries in the vicinity of Ploie?ti, Romania for purpose of denying petroleum fuels to the Axis enemy,

The severity and locale of the crash in which he was lost precluded identification of Lieutenant Thomas’s remains. What remains could be recovered from the B-24’s wreckage were interred as 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 organization tasked with searching for and recovering fallen U.S. personnel—disinterred all American remains from the Bolovan Cemetery and got about the solemn work of identifying such. While the effort occasioned the identification of many soldiers’, sailors’, and airmen’s remains, some eighty Unknowns remained—anonymous and unclaimed by grieving families. These were laid permanently to rest at Belgium’s Ardennes and Henri-Chapelle American Cemeteries.

In 2017, DPAA commenced exhuming Unknowns believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen presumably lost during Operation Tidal Wave. Subject remains were sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base for examination and identification.

Utilizing dental, anthropological, mitochondrial DNA, and Y chromosome DNA analysis, as well as historical and anecdotal evidence, DPAA scientists identified Lieutenant Thomas’s remains nearly eighty-years after he was killed in action.

First Lieutenant John B. Thomas’s name—along with those of other WWII fighting men missing still—is now recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy. To indicate he has been accounted for, a rosette has been placed next to Lieutenant Thomas’s name.

On 20 May 2023, Lieutenant John B. Thomas’s remains will be buried, finally, in his home state of New York.

FMI: www.dpaa.mil


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