The US government is seeking dozens of missing soldiers from WWII -- some of whom they think may have ended up throughout Southeast Europe.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 05/05/12
The US Personnel Accounting Community is asking citizens to help provide information on what happened to dozens of missing soldiers, lost during World War II.
Their two leading agencies charged by the US Department of Defence with personnel recovery and accounting are the Defence Prisoner of War / Missing Personnel Office and the Joint Prisoner of War, Missing in Action (MIA) Account Command. Together with other US defence organisations, the two form the “personnel accounting community.”
US Army Lieutenant Colonel James E McDonough, who works at the Defence Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, told SETimes that the project to find the missing soldiers from World War II is taking place on the former Yugoslav territories and Albania.
"We have approximately 198 MIAs who were lost during missions in this region, although about half of them are believed to have been lost in the Adriatic Sea," McDonough told SETimes, adding that his office is also working on several other projects in different regions of Europe.
McDonough said that the best way to cultivate 70-year-old information about a case is from local citizens.
"It may be that a farmer knows of a crash site that is on his land, or that a local church or even mosque is aware of a grave in which an unknown aviator was buried. Sometimes people don't know they have information of value to us, until we ask," he said.
The US government is pursuing "ground losses." "For this mission we are focused on 12 cases, [that include dozens of soldiers] that may take us to Kosovo, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Albania," according to McDonough.
"We want to bring all our military personnel home with honour, whether or not they are still living. We want to know about what happened to them, where they are located, and how we can bring them back to the US," the personnel accounting community said, adding that any information pertaining to missing service personnel is valuable.
There are "at least 16 American servicemen still missing in the land space of the Republic of Kosovo," the community said. These Americans served during WWII, and were either crewmembers of downed US Air Forces aircraft, or prisoners of war held by German forces.
McDonough told SETimes that so far, all of the offices' co-operation with Kosovo has been through the US Embassy in Pristina.
"[On April 30th,] however, we started to receive feedback from local citizens, who believe they might have information about some of these cases," he said. "We will respond to everyone, sometimes to ask more questions, and other times just to gratefully acknowledge the information provided."
One of the reports -- coded 11286 -- is about a missing air crew on a B-24H, which was last seen over Mitrovica, Kosovo, en route to Foggia, Italy. In this case, the plane could have crashed anywhere between Kosovo and the Italian coast.
Another case -- coded 9599 -- details an air crew of eight missing personnel. Seven of the men were either known or believed to be on board the B-24H, as it went down spinning near Mitrovica. "One of the men bailed out wounded, and was reported by the partisans to have been captured by the Germans and taken to a hospital near Mitrovica," McDonough said.
Case 10720 includes one missing air crew member. "His colleagues survived, and were told by the Germans that he was shot while attempting escape, though none of the crew members believed this to be true. According to German records, he was buried near Brnjica, near the Albanian border," McDonough said.
Kosovo authorities have not been involved in the cases of the missing American military staff.
Prenk Gjetaj, the chairman of Kosovo’s government commission for missing persons, told SETimes that although the mandate of his mission is to provide information on the fate of missing persons from the last war, "it is ready to assist in finding out the fate of the persons missing earlier, in different historical periods, such as during WWII."
"I can confirm that the commission has not taken yet any official request to assist in any possible process for the identification of the missing persons during the Second World War. We are ready to co-operate and offer our assistance if such a request is presented to us," Gjetaj told SETimes.