American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 29, 2013 - The remains of a serviceman from World War II
have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full
military honors, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office announced
in a DOD news release issued today.
Army 1st Lt. John E. Terpning, of Mount Prospect, Ill., will be buried on
April 3 in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va. On May 7, 1944, Terpning
was a pilot of a B-24D Liberator aircraft that departed Nadzab, New Guinea, on a
Due to mechanical troubles, the B-24D was delayed in departing the airbase
and was unable to join the formation after takeoff. The aircraft, Terpning, nor
the nine other crewmen aboard the plane were seen after takeoff. In 1946, the
War Department declared all ten men to be presumed dead.
In 1973, a Papua New Guinea Forest Department official reported a wartime
aircraft in the mountains northeast of the city of Lae. In October 1973, a team
of Royal Australian Air Force members responded to the report and visited the
site, where they found aircraft wreckage that corresponded to that of a
At that time the RAAF recovered possible human remains, which were
transferred to the U.S. Army Mortuary in Tachikawa, Japan. However, given the
limited technology at that time, no human remains were individually identified.
In 1974, the remains were buried as a group at Arlington National Cemetery.
In April 2008, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team was sent to
investigate and survey the crash site. The team recovered aircraft wreckage from
a B-24D and additional remains, including a radio call sign data plate that
matched the aircraft.
To identify the remains, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA
Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence and forensic
identification tools such as dental comparisons and mitochondrial DNA, which
matched Terpning's brother.
At the end of World War II, the U.S. government was unable to recover and
identify approximately 79,000 Americans. Today, more than 73,000 Americans are
unaccounted-for from that conflict.