JPAC searches for comrades lost in WWII
By Derrick C. Goode, JPAC photojournalist
/ Published October 31, 2006
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- On May 10, 1944, U.S. Army Air Force pilot 1st Lt. Stanley Dwyer and his B-17 bomber crew were shot down by German fighters over Vostenhof, Austria. Eight members of the crew bailed out but Lieutenant Dwyer and gunner Sgt. John Boros went down with the aircraft and were never recovered.
An 18-member recovery team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command deployed
from Hickam to Vostenhof, Austria, to attempt to recover Lieutenant Dwyer and Sergeant Boros.
"The mission of JPAC is to recover U.S. service members lost in our country's previous conflicts," said recovery team leader U.S. Army Maj. Mike Legler. "Whether it's Vietnam, Korea, World War II, or the civil war we are working hard to account for every service member lost."
Upon arrival in Austria the recovery team was greeted by the family of Lt. Dwyer, his younger brother Harold Dwyer, also a World War II B-17 pilot, his wife Darline, his daughter Kay Hughes, her husband Rick, and their children Melissa and Nathan.
"Having the family at the site adds a unique perspective to this mission," said Dr. Jay Silverstein, forensic anthropologist for JPAC. "The first hand knowledge that Mr. Dwyer
provided about the B-17 bomber was invaluable."
The team, which included an anthropologist, explosive ordnance disposal technician, field medic and German linguist, were deployed for 45-days which gave them the unique opportunity to get to know the family of one of the service members they were attempting to recover. It also gave the Dwyer family an opportunity to see the JPAC recovery team in action.
"I have really been impressed with the dedication, professionalism, and unending determination of the service members on this team," said Harold Dwyer, "I brought my college-aged grandkids here so they could see our military at work, and I couldn't have found a better group of guys for them to spend time with."
Spending time with the family was also inspirational to members of the recovery team. Master Sgt. Rodney Acasio, the field medic, expressed how having the family there gave him a totally different perspective of the JPAC mission, "The Dwyer's really put a face on
this mission for me," he said. "Mr. Dwyer told us stories about his brother, and we got to read a letter his brother wrote describing WWII from the perspective of a young American pilot."
The family had a memorial stone placed at the crash site and the family, JPAC team members, and Austrians from the area, held a memorial service to remember the crew members that were killed in 1944.
Senior Master Sgt. Frederick Smith, the team's linguist, said that he was really impressed by how eager and willing to help the Austrian people were.
"Some of the witnesses helping us were actually German Nazi soldiers who were trying to kill Americans in 1944," said Sergeant Smith, "now they're trying to help us find those soldiers so we can bring them home."
Unfortunately the team didn't find human remains on this mission, but JPAC will be returning to the area for another recovery mission in the future. The family did leave with a sense of hope, because during the first week of the mission a 1916 silver dime was found in the crater where a 500 lb. bomb detonated after the crash. Of the 10 members of the crew aboard the aircraft only one was born in 1916, and that was Lt Dwyer. His family is confident that he was carrying that dime, possibly as a good luck charm, on the day his aircraft went down. The team also found various pieces of life support from the aircraft and other personal effects from the crew.
"I'm a little disappointed that we weren't able to find human remains and have a definitive answer for the family," said Dr. Silverstein, "but we definitely know we're in the right area and it will only be a matter of time before we're able to bring our boys home."