(MENAFN) The remains of John Holoka, Jr., a technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force who was killed in action during World War II, have been identified nearly eight decades after his plane was shot down. Holoka, who was from Cresson, Pennsylvania, was 25 years old when he died in June 1944. His body was previously deemed non-recoverable after a number of unsuccessful investigations. However, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency recently confirmed that remains found in the United Kingdom in 2021 belonged to Holoka.
Holoka was one of 10 airmen on board a B-24H Liberator bomber that was struck and badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire following a raid on a German airfield in Saint-Cyr-l'École, France, near Versailles, on June 22, 1944. He was assigned to the crew as an engineer. The pilot, Lt. William B. Montgomery, was able to fly the damaged aircraft for miles until it reached the coast of England. Montgomery then ordered the crew to bail out, allowing seven airmen to parachute to safety before the plane ultimately crashed with Montgomery, Holoka, and one other member of the crew still inside.
Two crew members who landed safely on the ground reported seeing the aircraft crash into a farm in West Sussex, according to the DPAA. Holoka's remains were found in the United Kingdom in 2021, and scientists were able to confirm his identity using DNA tests and anthropological analyses, according to officials.
Holoka's niece, Susanne Ciarello, spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the discovery. Ciarello, who lives in Long Island, New York, said that the news brought tears to her eyes. "To me, it is so amazing, so unbelievable, they identified my uncle and found his dog tags," she said. Ciarello also revealed that Holoka was meant to be her godfather, but little was said about him because her mother got emotional. She expressed regret that her mother was not alive to see this discovery.
Holoka's remains will be buried with his parents in Portage, which is near Cresson, instead of at Arlington National Cemetery. The discovery of Holoka's remains highlights the ongoing efforts of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to recover American military personnel and identify them after decades have passed. For many families, the identification of a loved one's remains brings a sense of closure and honor to their sacrifice.
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