Is 10 year hunt for missing WWII airmen finally over? Wrocław University teams up with US govt. after remains found at American bomber crash site
A US Airforce Flying Fortress that was shot down in 1945 in the skies above Lower Silesia is the target of an archaeological hunt being carried out in Lower Silesia.
In March 1945, the American B-17 bomber was returning from Ruhland to its base in Italy after bombing German military targets. When the plane was in Lower Silesia, it was shot down.
There were 10 flight crew on board, all of whom parachuted out of the machine. It is believed that two of them died but there is little information about the remaining eight.
The solving of this mystery has been taken on by the US government agency DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency), which searches for soldiers killed on various fronts from the Second World War to Afghanistan. The US Department of Defence has been searching for downed bombers and aircrew in Poland for over 10 years.
Alex De Georgey, a DPAA representative, said: “In Lower Silesia, we are searching for the missing Americans whose bomber exploded in 1945 during a military mission. We know of seven Americans missing in that crash.”
In 2019, its specialists managed to locate the crash site in Jordanów Śląski. They managed to find fragments of the aircraft but no human remains.
After further searches were impossible in 2020 due to covid restrictions, the US Department of Defense asked specialists from the University of Wroclaw to carry out a thorough search of the area.
Prof. Maciej Trzciński of the University of Wrocław said: “We have been training specialists in this field for several years now. It was they, as well as students and staff from the department of forensic archaeology, who took part in the search."
This year, the search team discovered human remains and numerous fragments of the wreckage. Work finished at the beginning of September and will be renewed next year.
No work took place at the crash site last year because of coronavirus restrictions.
Towards the end of World War II, Lower Silesia was the scene of many Allied bombing raids involving Flying Fortresses. These aircraft were 22 metres long and as tall as a five-storey house, with a wingspan of 31 metres.
They were defended by 13 M2 machine guns, and up to 4,000 kg of bombs were loaded into the bomb bay. They had a range of almost 3,000 km and could fly at up to 486 km per hour.
They flew missions from bases in the UK and Italy to hit targets such as synthetic petrol plants in Silesia.
The human remains found this year will be sent for further laboratory tests in the USA, while the recovered fragments of the downed plane and its equipment will go on display next year in the Wrocław Archaeological Museum at a specially prepared exhibition.
The US Defense Department estimates that there are around a thousand American soldiers who disappeared on the territory of present-day Poland during World War II. These include bomber pilots shot down during combat missions and prisoners of war.
“We currently know of approximately 36,000 Americans missing in Europe during World War II and other wars. The DPAA is working with European countries to conduct joint investigations,” Alex De Georgey said.