STATUS UPDATE for MACR 2711 and 12511
By Johnie E Webb, Jr / Defense POW/MIA accounting Agency, Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hicham, Hawaii
KENDALL CREW – MACR 2711
On 30 Jan 1944, B-24H #41-29217 with a crew of ten was hit by a fighter and anti-aircraft fire during an attack on Udine, Italy, lost altitude and seen to crash on coast of Adriatic Sea on Isle of Morgo. There was one survivor and American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) recovered two bodies, which had reportedly been removed from the crash site, from a local cemetery on adjacent island of Grado.
In 2010, a small team investigated a crash site in a marsh located in an environmentally protected European Union nature preserve and later correlated it to this missing B-24. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency put a series of plans into motion to assess the strategies to recover this lost crew. Then in May 2014, DPAA archaeologists with experts from the Army Corps of Engineers conducted an on-site survey at this location. They determined that the primary concentration of wreckage is believed to lie 10 to 15 feet below the surface of a duck pond and will require an extensive amount of excavation with special engineering and logistical considerations needed for a successful recovery.
The US Army Corps of Engineers provided DPAA a cost estimate for developing a statement of work for environmental assessments and engineering for this site. According to the plans, the first step involves engineering work to prepare the site for excavation. Once that is complete, an actual excavation can take place. The site also contains unexploded ordnance, so Explosive Ordnance Disposal factors need to be considered during excavation planning.
In late February, The DPAA Regional Director for European and Mediterranean operations will be meeting in Germany a representative of the Corps of Engineers who has coordinated the studies we’ve requested and paid for. The intent of the meeting is to get the copies of all the studies that have been conducted, and to get an update on where the Corps of Engineers is in the permitting process. In advance of those meetings the Corps of Engineers has supplied DPAA with a slide presentation outlining the work conducted jointly in 2014 to investigate the site, subsequent Corps of Engineers geotechnical investigation and survey, and the steps still to be taken toward excavation of the site.
Once the Europe Mediterranean Regional Directorate has received the Corps of Engineers test results and engineering recommendations, the excavation will be planned and executed as recommended.
HANSON CREW – MACR 12511
On 28 February 1945, B-24J #42-51642 departed from Grottaglie Air Base and did not return from a bombing mission on the Isarco/Albes railroad bridge. The entire crew of eleven was killed in the incident and six crew members have not been recovered. The aircraft was last sighted losing altitude nearing the Alps on the Italian-Austrian border. The recovered crew members were found along a 150 km stretch of the Adriatic coast in Italy, suggesting that the aircraft crashed in the water.
In August 2013 DPAA received information that Italian divers recently found possible human remains and aircraft wreckage including a partial serial number that corresponds to MACR 12511 at an underwater site near Grado, Italy. Based on this information, DPAA dispatched an Underwater Investigation Team to investigate the site in May 2014. The team confirmed the site as being that of MACR 12511 and recommended the site for recovery. From 25 August through 13 October 2015 an Underwater Recovery Team from DPAA conducted recovery operations at the site, recovering human remains, personal effects and artifacts.
The remains recovered from the site were taken to DPAA for analysis. Once the remains arrived at the laboratory they had to go through a desalination process to remove the salt from the remains. This process, which is completed, is necessary to protect the remains from damage that can occur due to crystallization of the salt. The remains have undergone laboratory analysis and DNA testing. The laboratory estimates the Identification Packets will be completed within the next 60 days and will be sent to the Army Casualty Office at Fort Knox. They will then make an appointment with the primary next of kin to arrange for a meeting to present the identification to the family.
Unfortunately the pace of identifications has slowed due to the retirement of DPAA’s primary Medical Examiner. The replacement is due to arrive this summer. The second Medical Examiner provided to DPAA by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System will continue to validate/authorize identifications in the interim.
The 449th Bomb Group Association has closely followed DoD’s work on these cases and we honor their commitment to their fallen brothers who have not yet returned. We are proud of the support from veteran’s organizations and will diligently continue to work on bringing America’s fallen heroes home.