The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, recently accounted-for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 1st Lt. George W. Betchley, 20, of Yonkers, New York, will be buried October 14 in Clearwater, Florida. On March 22, 1945, Betchley was a member of the 429th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, serving as a navigator on a B-17G Flying Fortress, carrying a crew of ten on a bombing mission targeting the Ruhland oil refinery near Schwarzheide, Germany. The aircraft crashed in southwest Poland after two of its engines and the left wing were reportedly damaged by German anti-aircraft fire, and German fighters. The pilot and several crewmembers parachuted out, but only the pilot and co-pilot survived. The other eight crewmembers were not recovered following the crash. Betchley was declared missing in action as of March 22, 1945, but his status was later amended to killed in action.
On April 8, 1948, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) personnel recovered personal equipment and a set of remains, later designated as “Unknown X-7547 Neuville,” from Janowek Village Cemetery, near Glinica, Poland. The remains could not be identified and were interred as Unknown X-7547 at the United States Military Cemetery Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium in September 1949.
In April 1948, an AGRC team investigated a crash site associated with Betchley’s aircraft. Local authorities took the team to the crash site where equipment was found in the wreckage which had serial numbers correlating with weapons used on the B-17G Flying Fortress.
After a thorough historical and scientific analysis, it was determined that X-7547 could likely be identified. After receiving approval, on July 7, 2016, Unknown X-7547 was disinterred from Neuville and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.
To identify Betchley’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome (Y-STR) DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and historical evidence.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently, there are 72, 990 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Betchley’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission site along with the other MIAs from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.