World War II Airman Remains Identified

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2015 - The remains of a serviceman, missing since World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors, said the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in a DoD news release issued today.

U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Stephen V. Biezis of Chicago, will be buried Aug. 14, in Arlington National Cemetery, according to the release. His co-pilot, 1st Lt. James F. Gatlin of Jacksonville, Florida, was buried Jan. 30, in Bushnell, Florida.

On Dec. 23, 1944, Biezis and his crew of five were assigned to the 575th Bombardment Squadron, 391st Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force and were deployed to Germany, the release said. Biezis was the co-pilot of a B-26C Marauder that crashed after being struck by enemy fire while on a bombing mission against enemy forces near Ahrweiler, Germany. Biezis, Gatlin and three other crew members were reported killed in action. His remains were not recovered during the war.

One of the crew members parachuted from the aircraft but was captured and held as a prisoner of war by German forces, the release said. Following his release, he reported to U.S. officials that he had no knowledge of the fate of the remaining crewmen.

Following the war, the American Graves Registration Command conducted investigations on the loss of Biezis and his crew and successfully located the crash site, near Manderscheid and Bettenfeld, the release said. The remains of two crewmen were recovered.

On May 27, 1999, a U.S. team investigating World War II losses in Germany visited a crash site near Bettenfeld, according to the release. Two German nationals had researched the crash site and showed the team artifacts that were found and turned over remains collected from the site. Those remains were identified as Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Joe R. Sanchez, 20, of Los Nietos, Calif. He was accounted for in March 2011, and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Between 2011 and 2014, the Department of Defense teams traveled to Bettenfeld and conducted operations at the crash site, the release said.

To identify Biezis' remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used forensic identification tools to include mitochondrial DNA, which matched his sister and cousin, according to the release.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died. Today, more than 73,000 are unaccounted for from the conflict, the release said.

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