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Feb-16-2008 11:10printcomments

Missing WWII Airmen Identified After 64 Years

They apparently were buried during the war, but remained unidentified until recently.
A-20 Havoc aircraft similar to the one these men flew in 1944
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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Three U.S. servicemen missing from World War II were recovered and identified in Europe. The Department of Defense says they will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors. They are 2nd Lt. John F. Lubben, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin; Sgt. Albert A. Forgue, of North Providence, Rhode Island; and Sgt. Charles L. Spiegel, of Chicago, Illinois; all aviators with the U.S. Army Air Forces.

The three will be buried on April 18th in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

Representatives from the Army met with the next-of-kin of these men in their hometowns to explain the recovery and identification process and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the Secretary of the Army.

Records indicate that on December 12th 1944, these men crewed an A-20J Havoc aircraft departing from Coullomiers, France, to bomb enemy targets near Wollseifen, Germany.

The aircraft was last seen entering a steep dive near Cologne, Germany. Several searches and investigations of this area and reviews of wartime documents failed to provide information concerning the incident.

Coullomiers, France today

The A-20J was a variant of a famous line of light bombers used by the U.S. Army Air Force and several other groups during WWII including the RAF and the Soviet Air Force.

This model of the twin engine light bomber carried an additional bombardier in an extended acrylic glass nose section.

These were intended to lead bombing formations, with the following standard A-20s dropping their bombs when signaled by the leader. A total of 450 of these aircraft were built.

Nobody knew the fate of this crew of U.S. airmen for many decades. In 1975, a German company clearing wartime mines and unexploded ordnance near Simmerath, Germany, reported the discovery of a gravesite northeast of Simmerath where American servicemembers were buried.

U.S. officials evaluated the remains and determined they represented three individuals, but they could not make identifications at that time. The remains were subsequently buried as unknowns in the Ardennes American Military Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium.

In 2003, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was notified that a group of German citizens had information correlating the three servicemembers who were buried as unknowns with the crew from the 1944 A-20J crash.

Based on that information, JPAC exhumed the three unknown graves from the Ardennes American Military Cemetery in 2005. Among dental records, other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA in the identification of the remains.

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