The remains of a 23-year-old from Utah who was killed during a bombing mission in World War II have been identified, a federal agency said Thursday.
Elvin L. Phillips, who was a sergeant for the US Army Air Forces, was a gunner on board an aircraft that crashed north of Bucharest, Romania, in the summer of 1943, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in a news release.
“To identify Phillips’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis,” the agency explained, adding that scientists also used mitochondrial DNA during their examination.
Now, Phillip’s remains are set to be buried in Bluffdale, Utah.
His name had been recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, which is an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy. “A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for,” the agency said.
Phillips was a member of the 66th Bombardment Squadron, 44th Bombardment Group and was the tail gunner on the B-24 Liberator aircraft that carried eight other personnel and took off from Libya on August 1, 1943, as part of Operation Tidal Wave in Romania, according to the MIA Accounting Agency.
The target was oil refineries in Ploiesti, the agency said. Phillips was killed by anti-aircraft fire near Ploiesti and the badly damaged plane crashed. Two crew members survived by bailing out, it said.
Initially, Phillips’ remains were buried as Unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania.
After the war, the American Graves Registration Command recovered all American remains from the cemetery for identification. It was unable to identify more than 80 unknowns and those remains were buried at two cemeteries in Belgium, the agency said.
By 2017, the agency began exhuming unidentified remains believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen from Operation Tidal Wave. Those remains were sent to the agency’s Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, to be examined and identified, the agency explained. Phillips’ remains were identified in March.
World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945, with more than 16 million US troops serving in the battle. A total of 405,399 US troops died in the war.
CNN’s Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.