Illinois WWII Soldier’s Remains Returned 80 Years Later

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HOOPESTON, IL – The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced last Thursday U.S. Army Air Forces Technical Sgt. Lawrence E. Reitz, a native of Hoopeston, Illinois, who was killed during World War II, has finally been accounted for after 80 years. 

Reitz, just 22 years old at the time of his death, was serving as a radio operator on a B-24 Liberator aircraft during Operation TIDAL WAVE on August 1, 1943, when the plane crashed due to enemy anti-aircraft fire near Ploiesti, Romania. Despite efforts to identify the fallen soldiers following the war, Reitz’s remains were among those buried as Unknowns in Romania’s Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan.

The DPAA recently exhumed remains believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen from Operation TIDAL WAVE losses. These remains were then examined and identified at the DPAA Laboratory in Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Through anthropological analysis, circumstantial evidence, and DNA testing, including mitochondrial DNA, Y chromosome DNA, and autosomal DNA analysis, scientists were able to positively identify Reitz’s remains.

Reitz’s name is engraved on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Impruneta, Italy, alongside others still missing from WWII. As a symbol of his recovery, a rosette will be placed next to his name on the memorial. 

The fallen soldier will be laid to rest in Williamsport, Indiana, with the date of the burial yet to be determined.

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