The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Ernest L. Roth, 20, of Los Angeles, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Feb. 4, 2020.
In May 1944, Roth was assigned as a pilot with the 359th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force in Europe. On May 19, he was piloting a B-17G bomber while on a bombing run over Berlin when the plane was hit by flak and crashed. Six of the 10 crewmembers, including Roth, were killed in the incident. They were recovered by German forces and reportedly buried in the Döberitz cemetery.
Following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) was tasked with investigating and recovering missing Americans. The AGRC did not find Roth in the grave in which he was reportedly buried, but instead recovered two other American service members whose plane had gone down on the same day. They did find a set of unknown remains designated X-4801 Neuville in a grave nearby that was thought to either be Roth or one other American. However, the AGRC was unable to determine which person it definitively was, and so concluded X-4801 Neuville was unidentifiable.
In 2016, DPAA historians began focused research on eight sets of unknown remains recovered from Döberitz. One historian reconstructed the cemetery plot map with data from several sources, and concluded there were four possible casualties that could be associated with X-4801 Neuville. In June 2018, the Department of Defense and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) exhumed X-4801 and transferred the remains to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
To identify Roth’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, along with circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Roth’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, an ABMC site in Hombourg, Belgium, along with others who are still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Roth will be buried in his hometown. The date has yet to be determined.