News

10 October, 2016

Hurtgen Forest Update

With the assistance of a German researcher who provided precise locations of both the German defenses and the battalions of the US 22nd Infantry during the winter of 1944, we have begun plotting positions. Our goal is to overlay these positions with the locations where unknowns were recovered to assist in the identification of US MIA’s.  The locations below indicate the general axis of advance toward the town of Grosshau as they moved toward a position where they could control the roads now indicated by Highway 399.. We’ll be updating these to indicate specific ID’s for the battalions of the 22nd. More to come!

22nd-infantry-and-german-defense-positions

11 June 2017

Hurtgen Forest Update

Our research into the Hurtgen Forest losses continues. Positions for the 22nd, 39th, 47th, and 60th Infantry Regiments during the battle for the Hurtgen have now been surveyed and added to the map below. The next step in the research is to superimpose the last seen or Morning Reports of each of the missing men in these Regiments and begin to narrow the possibilities of each for identification by DNA.

 

Letter to Ambassador Hammer

16 May 2016

The Case of USN BuNo 17254

On 4 August 1969, US Navy 17254 departed its host base enroute to a scheduled maintenance in Buenos Aires Argentina. Aboard were two experienced pilots, two other crew, and a number of dependents. Wheels-up at 1650 hours from Santiago, the aircraft reported at Angostura, Chile, approximately 27 miles south of Santiago at 1716 hours. The flight plan called for a turn to the eastward through the typical airway traversing the mountain passes enroute to Buenos Aires. A last transmission indicated probable turbulence and the intent to climb above the 12,000 level. The weather was bad, with low ceilings over the mountains and turbulence reported with snow.

The airplane carried no flight recorder, and was painted white. The terrain is desolate and rugged, with steep ravines, accumulated snow, and little habitation until just west of Buenos Aires. Numerous searches were conducted by ground and air for ten days.

Attention to the search has been encouraged in recent years due to the actions of family and the interest in the possibility of using new technologies.

Both Google Earth and Esri-ArcGIS have extensive satellite  photos of the terrain, which when used with their Lat/Long descriptors would enable searchers to make web-based simulations of the flight path and create a probable search area.

The US Navy JAG Corps website has published the complete investigation, which is available at;

www.jag.navy.mil/library/jagman-inves

10/4/2016

We received the following response from our letter to Ambassador Hammer;

17254-amb-hammer-response-3-oct-2016-001

Family advocates have expressed confidence in their recent meeting with Michael Linnington, the new Director of the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency. Linnington took over late this year and has taken strong actions to rebuild confidence in the family members who are the “customers” of the Agency. He has stepped up the pace to create a more urgent operations tempo in the agency, and made significant changes in policy which families hope will bring about increased recoveries of MIA personnel.

Blechhammer Tour 23-29 April 2017

My friend Szymon Serwatka is planning another Blechhammer tour, from 23-29 April 2017. The tour will encompass several cities and USAAF memorial sites and also visit the sites of the Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan, and the Auschwitz- Birkenau Concentration Camp.

For more information and details please visit his web site;

https://www.facebook.com/BlechhammerTour

 

2/31/2015

BuNo 17254   UPDATE

A number of volunteers are looking at aerial photographs of the intended flight path of the aircraft. We have contacted NASA and asked them if they have any high resolution photography that might help us in finding the crash site. We have also identified a technical method, called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, which can be applied to aerial surveys. This technique may be able to identify the presence of metals on or below the surface of mountains, glaciers, and under water. The cost is very high, but we are hopeful that we may be able to find a company which already possesses surveys of the area, and would allow us limited access to the results.

 

12/31/2015

Hurtgen Forest Project

We have acquired ArcGIS (Geographic Information Software) which will be used to plot locations of the recovered unknowns from the battle, which took place over several months from September 1944 to February 1945. When used in conjunction with the structured data we have extracted from several thousand files of the missing in action, we are hopeful that it will narrow the possibilities of the unknowns from a specific area, and provide clues to identification. We have also acquired Tableau 9, a visual presentation software which we will use to connect to our relational database.

                                                                                                                           3/6/2016

A DPAA team head by Col Chris Forbes visited the Merode, Germany cemetery and recovered the remains of a man believed to have been an American soldier killed in the battle of the Hurtgen Forest and buried in the Merode civilian cemetery. The remains were brought to the DPAA Forensic laboratory and are undergoing DNA and other analysis methods to establish an identification.

 

12/31/2015

The Negro Troops Project

We have identified many of the “Negro Troop” units which served in World War II. We have also identified a number of burials in ABMC Cemeteries which are listed only as “unknown Negro soldier”. These include one identified as an airman. The next effort will be to search the National Archives for unit morning reports which list the daily counts of those killed or missing in action. Another, and more difficult task, will be to identify those troops which served in combat platoons as full replacements. We will need to identify documentation pertaining to those assignments, but we know that there were apparently platoon replacements which served in the Hurtgen Forest battle.

UPDATE                                                                                                     2/22/2016

We have discovered a file containing information on four members of the General Engineer Service Company which all seem to have been killed by a single artillery shell on D-day, 6 June 1944. Their names are;

Simmons, Henry      38227090- entered service from Louisiana

Haggins, Sylvester     32552252- entered service from  New York

Wyatt, Daniel              38311942- entered service  from Louisiana

Homer, Mack               34740215- entered service from Georgia

These men were unable to be identified individually at the scene, but their identities were all verified by Lt. Roy Diddle of the 364th.  We have a precise location for the burial site of one of these men, and are currently searching for the others among the Normandy Cemetery files.

A recent discovery among the files has revealed the recovery of an “unknown Negro aviator”. We are planning to review files of the missing Tuskegee Airmen to determine if this recovered remains could be a Tuskegee pilot. We’ll keep you updated as this progresses.

UPDATE                                                                                                       3/6/2016

A recent file discovery reveals the death of a negro prisoner of war shot to death by a German guard in the vicinity of the Rennes Prisoner of war camp. The man carried with him a note presumably written in French saying “escaped from the Rennes POW Camp” or words to that effect.

3/7/2016

Possible lost Tuskegee Airman. We have found a file noting the recovery of a possible Tuskegee Airman. The body washed ashore near Ijmuiden, Netherlands, before 12 June 1943. He was in Officers clothing, and 6’5″ tall. Remains were intact.

Update

The possible lost Tuskegee Airman story can now be updated. There are no Tuskegee airmen lost in the vicinity of the Netherlands where this man was found. His loss and identity remains a mystery.

05/11/2017

2017 Stars and Stripes Story

                                     Photo Courtesy of Barbara Foulkes

New tool could help solve long-forgotten MIA cases

Army Pvt. Mack Homer was killed in an explosion in Normandy, France, on July 7, 1944, one month after the D-Day invasion.

 

By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 11, 2017

On July 7, 1944, a month after the Allied invasion of Normandy, soldiers from the 364th Engineer General Service Regiment entered a captured German emplacement that was stocked with munitions — most likely to disarm or dispose of them.

What happened next is unknown, but there was an explosion that claimed the lives of seven men.

A few of the combat engineers were identified in the aftermath of the blast; Pvt. 1st Class Sylvester Haggins, Pvt. Mack Homer, Pvt. Henry Simmons and Technician Fifth Grade Daniel Wyatt were not.

Fast-forward 72 years, and the men have been reduced to names on a register, their loved ones long since buried with their memories and the pain of their losses.

However, thanks to a new tool developed by Kenneth Breaux and his team at M.I.A. Recovery Network, a nonprofit that advocates for missing-in-action servicemembers and their families, there is a renewed sense of hope that at least one of the men could soon be identified.

Breaux — a retired Navy officer with experience in data analysis — and his team have developed a database of unknown World War II-era U.S. soldiers buried in American cemeteries. After plotting the Military Grid Reference System location of each recovered unknown from the European theater and entering details — service branch, last-seen location, date of death, height and dental work — the team can search unit records for matches.

The tool is not foolproof — World War II records are spotty at best — but several cases have jumped out right away, showing that the system can aid researchers in making identifications.

One of the first was the case of Normandy’s X-27.

“While doing the data structure, we began to notice clusters of similar information,” Breaux said. “This is what led us to the possibility of the ability to mine those data clusters for information that could lead to identification. The clustered data provides a narrowing of possibilities for identification.”

If an unknown was recovered in a certain area, at a certain time, and if the team knows which units were in the area and who was lost, the database can look for similarities to whittle down the list of potential matches, Breaux said.

Unit records and Individual Deceased Personnel Files, which often say where missing men were last seen, can also be used to fill in gaps.

“Of course, all of this, in the end, will depend on DNA analysis in most cases, but the ability of our data mining should narrow the possibilities so that if we know that four men of the 364th General Engineering Service Regiment died in an area, and we can get DNA from one or more of these men’s relatives, our chances for identification increases,” Breaux said. “We need this also to make the case to disinter” to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Courtesies of the Heart’

The database was born over a decade ago. A woman who lived on Breaux’s street told him she never knew what happened to her father, Army Air Corps Lt. William Lewis, who was lost over Germany in 1944.

Breaux began to investigate and eventually went to Europe where he found and helped recover Lewis’ remains. He wrote a book about the experience titled “Courtesies of the Heart.”

Breaux began receiving letters and requests for assistance from families across the United States. The M.I.A. Recovery Network was born.

As Breaux helped families and pored over government documents, he said he starting seeing correlations. As he worked with other researchers through his nonprofit, an Army officer named Robert Rumsby showed him a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet of data. Breaux suggested they take it to the next level. They entered the data from every file accompanying unknown remains, called an x-file, that they could get their hands on, putting in thousands of man hours. Then they began to compare them with mapped coordinates and events, like specific battles. These efforts are starting to bear fruit.

“We have a database built from archival material in the x-files and now we have a map that you can access that shows the physical location of every single recovery in Europe,” Breaux said. “When you go through the files and extract the data from the x-file and you put it into the data sheet, it becomes much easier to say, ‘OK, now I’ve got a relationship, now I’ve got an aggregation of data, now I can begin a pursuit,’ and some of these are pretty straightforward — not all of these — but a lot of them are pretty easy to figure out.”

Breaux and his team saw clusters of unknown dead in Normandy. They began to look at the units operating in the cluster areas at the time and who they had lost.

They saw that four were still missing from the 364th Engineer General Service Regiment — Haggins, Homer, Simmons and Wyatt. The x-file for Normandy X-27, an unknown recovered in the area of their deaths, confirmed their suspicions. One of their officers, Lt. Roy Diddle, had written a note that the remains belonged to one of the four men killed in Fontenay-sur-Mer, near Utah Beach, on July 7, 1944.

The officer could not identify the remains because they were missing a skull and hands and had multiple fractures. The note was not found in any of the other files.

Breaux’s teammate Jana Churchwell located relatives for two of the men, the bar that must be met for disinterment, and has instructed the families on how to contact the U.S. Army’s Past Conflict Repatriations Branch to submit DNA for testing. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, Barbara Foulkes, Homer’s niece, indicated that their family would follow through.

When she got the call, “I couldn’t believe it,” Foulkes, 80, said. “I certainly will pursue it.”

Foulkes said Homer was the ninth of 15 children. Her father was the oldest and was very bitter about his younger brother’s death. Homer was last seen boarding a train as he headed off to basic training. It was a sad memory that has been passed down through the years.

“My father didn’t talk much about Uncle Mack,” Foulkes said. “Mack was young [only 20 at the time of his death] and he wanted to get out of Georgia and get a better life, and joining the Army was one of the best answers, but unfortunately …”

She grew quiet as she searched for words.

Breaux said that even if Homer’s family does submit DNA, there is no assurance that DPAA will disinter the remains in Normandy for DNA testing. He showed Stars and Stripes several other cases where unknowns were narrowed down significantly to prove the validity of his system under the condition that Stars and Stripes not report on those. Breaux said they were not finished with their investigations.

Long-term vision

“The vision that we have, now that we have this data in an orderly fashion, is that we can create data sets that people can feed into,” Breaux said. “That’s the next step. Our long-term vision includes much more rigorous archival research such as linking recovery of remains to Army Morning Reports, After Action Reports, Missing Air Crew Reports, etc.”

Breaux said funding would be needed to obtain and add even more records to the system. He said DPAA had expressed interest in working with him on this system after he submitted a proposal in late 2016; however, no offer to join forces was made. He has since found out that DPAA is building its own database system. DPAA officials confirmed to Stars and Stripes that Na Alii Consulting Sales LLC in Honolulu had been awarded a nearly $20 million contract to build a database and information system. That work is supposed to be completed by 2020.

“We believe an integrated information system will be critically important to our mission,” DPAA spokeswoman Maj. Natasha Waggoner wrote to Stars and Stripes. “We anticipate it will greatly support our desire to better collaborate, reduce data redundancy, and we hope to incorporate some new technology that enables us to better manage our data.”

She said the agency hopes to share some information with families and the public, but they are limited by Defense Department rules on classification and privacy. She said that is why it was important to have classified and unclassified databases.

Waggoner encouraged Breaux and his team to continue trying to work with DPAA.

“We are committed to securely governing our data, and where we can we will enable direct sharing for as much of the data as possible to leverage the public and partners insight and capabilities,” she wrote. “DPAA recognizes the interest, enthusiasm and expertise of many members of the public for our mission. We remain committed to building effective partnerships and maximizing the DoD ongoing efforts to account for the missing.”

Breaux said that if he doesn’t partner with DPAA, he will open his database to MIA families and researchers. Successful MIA investigator and founder of the nonprofit PFC Lawrence Gordon Foundation Jed Henry said he hasn’t used Breaux’s system but that it could be useful.

“I would certainly like to get my hands on it and see how helpful it might be,” Henry said. “The unfortunate part is that WWII records are fragmented and incomplete. They rarely tell the whole story so you are often left with [just] theories.”

Henry said there are other concerns, such as being able to search without tipping off others to the cases he is working on, and whether there would be an online database or files or analysis for each request.

Henry said he still believes in the systematic disinterment and DNA testing of all unknown soldiers as the best way to identify them. However, until that happens, databases like Breaux’s could fill in some of the gaps.

burke.matt@stripes.com

 

6/10/2017

The Charles Peacock Story

By Terry du Soleil

 This article is dedicated to the 106 airmen of the 95th Bomb Group missing since 1943 and in honor of the 70th anniversary of their loss. On November 8, 1943, Charles Peacock, succumbed to the elements a few miles from the restaurant in Soldeu, Andorra, where food, warmth, rest and shelter and guides to lead them to their next passage awaited. Fellow crew member, Vincent Cox, stayed back to help him as they evaded capture on the harrowing journey over the Pyrenees. T/ Sgt Peacock is the only 95th Bomb Group Missing in Action (MIA) commemorated on the wall of the missing at Epinal American Cemetery in France.

70 years hence, this is his story.

Returning from a mission to Stuttgart, September 6, 1943, with engines out and surrounded by enemy fighters, Pilot Glen Ransom was lowering his wheels as a sign of surrender. The tail gunners in the rear were unaware of what was happening in the cockpit and kept shooting. They took out the FW-190 that was pulling up to escort them to land where they would be guests of the Reich. “Then hell broke loose” as “35 to 40” fighters descended upon them. When the planeʼs left wing tip was hit, Ransom gave the abandon ship order. During the dog fight five to seven fighters were destroyed. The pilot, bombardier and one of the gunners were wounded. However, the entire crew evacuated their B-17, “Bomboogie” (42-30271) and parachuted into occupied France. Two of the crew, Hubert Gage, navigator, and Thomas Caldwell, co-pilot, were captured soon after landing south of Laon, the others evaded. John Beacham and Harold Knotts were captured while evading. Glen Ransom, Pasquale Delvento, Keith Murray, Ralph Houser, and Vincent Cox, successfully evaded. Charles Peacock died of exhaustion after a valiant effort by Cox to save him. The trek across France aided by the French underground was dangerous and difficult. The passage through the Pyrenees was treacherous and the winter weather extremely cold. Cox and Peacock were in the same evader group travelling the passage known as the Bourgogne line, headed by George Broussine. The rest of the Ransom crew travelled across the Pyrenees with other groups. The dedication, bravery and skill of the French underground successfully returned Ransom and four members of his crew. The exact number saved by the French underground is not known. According to the Conscript Heros website (see over) the Bourgogne line alone transported an estimated 311. Cox arrived back in England on November 18, 1943 and the other evaders from his plane had arrived on October 29 and November 8.

German records from 1944 indicated that both Beacham and Peacock were buried in German controlled graves. Their families were notified and their personal belongings returned to them. However, at the liberation of the POW camps Beacham was found alive. Peacockʼs case was later reopened. During 1949 and 1950 an extensive search was carried out by the US Army personnel accounting command without positive results. Graves were exhumed and remains examined. Known resistance helpers who aided Peacock were questioned. During the course of the inquiry, a German collaborator underground “helper” hung himself in jail. One theory is that Peacock was found by this spy. Another is that wild animals carried his remains off. The case was once again closed.

Charles B. Peacock is still listed among the Service Personnel not recovered from WWII on the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) on-line roster for New Jersey. This list gives his date of death as the date his plane was lost. However, Peacock survived the jump and evaded with fellow crew members. Since this article first appeared in 2013, the author and other researchers have made new discoveries which may lead to the recovery of the remains of T/Sgt Charles B. Peacock.

 

Terry du Soleil:

Terry duSoleil, MIA Research, 95th BG,

b17story@gmail.com

 

Blechhammer Tour 2018

From our friend Szymon Serwatka comes the news that his 2018 Blechhammer Tour dates are now firm and published on his new website;

http://www.blechhammertour.com/

The 2018 dates are:

  • MAY 13-19
  • SEPTEMBER 9-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

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