The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of five Army Air Forces servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
Capt. Leonard E. Orcutt, Alameda, Calif., was buried on May 5 in Oakland, Calif; Tech. Sgt. Louis H. Miller, Philadelphia, was buried on June 17 in Arlington National Cemetery; Staff Sgt. George L. Winkler, Huntington, W.Va., was buried May 5 in Arlington National Cemetery;В 2nd Lt. Harry L. Bedard, Minneapolis, will be buried on June 25 in Dayton, Minn.; and 2nd Lt. Robert S. Emerson, Norway, Maine, will be buried July 9 in his hometown.
On April 3, 1945, Orcutt and his crew took off in their B-25J Mitchell bomber from Palawan Field, Philippines. The pilot of another aircraft in the flight reported seeing Orcutt’s plane stall out and crash about one mile northeast of the village of Consolacion in a swampy area. There were no survivors.
In early 1947, personnel from the Army’s Graves Registration Service recovered additional remains from the crash site and buried them as unknowns in Leyte, Philippines. Later that year, they were exhumed and transferred to Manila for possible identification. In 1949, a military review board declared these unknown group remains to be those of the aircrew and re-buried them at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Mo.
Two years later, the Graves Registration Service returned to the crash site and recovered additional remains. The case was reanalyzed and a recommendation was made that the group remains at Jefferson Barracks be disinterred for individual identification. All remains from the crash site were examined with no resulting identification. They were reburied at the same location. A sister of one of the airmen contacted the Army in 2001 upon learning of the recovery of additional remains in the 1950s. The Army then disinterred the group remains at Jefferson Barracks in 2008 which were taken to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii for identification.
Among forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC used dental comparisons and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNAВ — which matched that of relatives of the aircrew — in the identification of these airmen.
At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans. Today, more than 73,000 are unaccounted-for from the conflict.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at https://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.