The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, recently accounted-for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Clarence L. Dragoo, 21, of Sandyville, West Virginia, will be buried October 14 in his hometown. On Feb. 28, 1945, Dragoo was a member of the 716th Bomber Squadron, 449th Bombardment Group, along with ten other crewmen of a B-24J Liberator aircraft, which departed Grottaglie Army Air Base, Italy, for a combat mission. The mission targeted the Isarc-Albes railroad bridge in northern Italy, which was part of Brennan Route, used by Germans to move personnel and equipment into and out of Italy. Following the bombing run, participating aircraft headed in the direction of their rally point, where the planes would reform and return to their originating base. When leaving the Isarco-Albes area, an aircraft was seen heading in the direction of the rally point, but skimmed the mountain tops with at least two damaged engines. The plane was last seen near Lake Wiezen in Austria. No parachutes were seen exiting the aircraft. Based on this information, Dragoo was reported missing in action.
In the years following the incident, five of the 11 crewmembers were recovered and identified. On Sept. 21, 1948, the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) convened in Rome to discuss recovering the remaining crew members. The board concluded the plane crashed in the north Adriatic Sea.
On August 18, 2013, an Italian citizen reported the discovery of possible remains in an underwater aircraft wreck site off the coast of Grado, Italy. On September 22, 2013, a group of recreational divers located and photographed the aircraft, associated with Horwitz’ loss.
In May 2014, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (predecessor to DPAA) investigative team worked with the Grado Civil Patrol to excavate the site, however no remains were recovered. A DPAA underwater team returned to the site from August to October 2015 and completed an excavation.
To identify Dragoo’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis which matched his family, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and historical evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the Italian government for their assistance in this recovery.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,993 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Dragoo’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission site along with the other MIAs from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.