Coming home: Remains of World War II airman will be buried in Illinois hometown

CHESTER, Ill. — The remains of a World War II airman killed in combat nearly 80 years ago will be laid to rest in his southern Illinois hometown on Saturday.

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U.S. Army Air Forces Tech Sgt. James Mills Howie, of Chester, will be buried on June 3 at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, according to his obituary posted on the website of the Pechacek Funeral Home in Chester.

Howie, 24, was killed on Aug. 1, 1943, in Romania, according to a Thursday news release from the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Howie was a radio operator assigned to the 345th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force, according to the agency. He was aboard a B-24 bomber on a mission, dubbed Operation Tidal Wave, to destroy oil fields and refineries in Ploiesti, Romania, which was under the control of Nazi Germany at the time, the agency said in its release.

The aircraft was shot down and Howie’s remains could not be identified after the war, KTVI reported. His remains, along with three other unidentified soldiers, were buried as unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan in Ploiesti, according to CBS News.

After the war, the American Graves Registration Command disinterred all U.S. soldier remains from the Bolovan cemetery for identification, the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said. The AGRC was unable to identify more than 80 unknown soldiers and their remains were interred at Ardennes American Cemetery and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium.

In 2017, the AGRC exhumed the unidentified remains and sent them to a laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, for examination and identification, according to CNN.

Scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, circumstantial evidence and DNA testing to identify Howie’s remains, U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said. Howie’s remains were accounted for on Aug. 23, 2022.

Howie’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Florence American Cemetery in Impruneta, Italy, according to the agency. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he has been accounted for.

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