The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Army Air Forces Sgt. Howard F. Gotts, 23, of Flint, New York, killed during World War II, was accounted for on June 24, 2019.
(This identification was initially published on June 26, 2019.)
In August 1943, Gotts was a radio operator assigned to the 66th Bombardment Squadron, 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy,) known as the Flying 8-Balls. On Aug. 1, 1943, the B-24D aircraft on which Gotts served, crashed during Operation Tidal Wave, the largest bombing mission, against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania. The Romanian government announced they had recovered and buried 216 Americans killed in the bombing raid, but could only identify 27 of the men at the time of the recovery. The remaining casualties were said to have been buried as Unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania.
After the war, American Graves Registration Command teams disinterred all of the American deceased in Bolovan Cemetery and transferred them to the American Military Cemetery at Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium. Two of Gotts’ crewmates were identified, but five other crewmembers, including Gotts, could not be identified, and his name was not found on any prisoner of war list. His remains were declared non-recoverable.
DPAA personnel analyzed historical documentation regarding X-5059 Neuville, which had originally been designated Bolovan X-51. Based upon the original recovery location of X-5059, a DPAA historian determined that there was a likely association between the remains and Gotts. On Sept. 6, 2017, the Department of Defense and American Battle Monuments Commission disinterred X-5059 and accessioned the remains to the DPAA laboratory for identification.
To identify Gotts’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
DPAA is grateful to the American Battle Monuments Commission and to the U.S. Army Regional Mortuary-Europe/Africa for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,682 service members still unaccounted for from World War II, of which approximately 30,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable. Gotts’ 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 the others missing from WWII. Although interred as an Unknown, Gotts’ grave was meticulously cared for by ABMC for 70 years. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.