Minnesota airman from WWII accounted for 79 years following death

(ABC 6 News) – A Minnesota airman that was killed in World War II has been accounted for.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced on Tuesday that U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Donald R. Duchene, 19, of St. Paul, Minnesota, was accounted for July 8, 2022.

In the summer of 1943, Duchene was assigned to the 344th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force.

On Aug. 1, 1943, the B-24 Liberator aircraft on which Duchene was serving as the tail gunner was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire and crashed during Operation TIDAL WAVE, the largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania.

His remains were not identified following the war and were buried as Unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania. 

Following the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), the organization that searched for and recovered fallen American personnel, disinterred all American remains from the Bolovan Cemetery for identification.

The AGRC was unable to identify more than 80 unknowns from Bolovan Cemetery, and those remains were permanently interred at Ardennes American Cemetery and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, both in Belgium

In 2017, DPAA began exhuming unknowns believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen from Operation TIDAL WAVE losses. These remains were sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for examination and identification.

To identify Duchene’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological and dental analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.

Duchene’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Duchene will be buried in Minneapolis on a date yet to be determined.