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> KIAS MISHAP, PLOESTI
militaryhistorian
Posted: July 25, 2016 04:59 pm
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It is perhaps best to explain the overall conjecture.

We (the United States) have over 80,000 veterans still missing from WWII, naturally not all of them in Romania. That is, missing.

The Pentagon organization that is charged with our KIAs (Killed in Action) identification is called the Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency (or DPMA, for short). This is a very small unit and, as you might imagine, and they are (and have been) overwhelmed by the numbers of KIAs they've been trying to locate over the years. If you go to their website (http://www.dpaa.mil/) you'll notice they don't even have a phone number or email address (other than generic ones - according to our branches), because they just can't answer all the requests. One can only contact them via a electronic form, and then hope for an answer back.

Their job is complex and involves a complicated process, DNA identification, etc. The process has been the same for about 50 years until recently, when it was decided that it will never succeed in identifying all of our missing at the current rate. So, what DPMA decided to do was to appeal to the population at large, in effect the civilian population, to locate our KIAs. This is a rather recent undertaking, and it will take a while to have any effects. However, it is extremely important and it's part of the reason I am reaching out to you.

My role is purely that of an investigator, but I am a retired U.S. military officer (Lt. Col). Therefore, I don't work for the DPMA. Rather, I work in cooperation with them. Naturally, as a former military officer and as an American, I have vested personal and patriotic interests in seeing my vets and KIAs brought home, but that is besides the point. I cannot concentrate on all of our vets, but I can certainly do my part about Operation Tidal Wave, and all subsequent American mission over Ploesti in WWII.

The issue with our KIAs due to these missions has become a little complex and, as you may notice, a bit unpleasant.

Our records indicate a total of 17,124 Liberator flights to Romania during this time, with a total of 4,553 downed airmen, and 22,772 airmen having participated in all these missions.

Majority of our downed airmen were captured alive and later repatriated (in 1944). The KIAs were buried by the Romanian folks. Shortly after the war, the United States sent a special unit known as Graves Registration Unit to Bucharest. Their goal was to locate, identify, disinter, remove, and transport our KIAs to either the Ardennes Cemetery in France/Belgium or back to the States.

They were aided by the Romanian General Staff, who assigned Major Constantin Unga to them, perhaps because he spoke English. And here's where things get complicated.

Major Unga filed a report about our airmen. Our KIAs were disinterred, flown to, and buried in the Ardennes Cemetery.

Unfortunately, things now show that 88 remains (that is, 88 airmen), have not been identified. Things get worse. We now know it is entirely possible some of the airmen buried there are not American (or airmen) at all. In other words, Major Unga's unit may have disinterred and turned over to our GRU Romanian deceased, not American. Of course, this must have been done by mistake, not on purpose. However, as things stand, it is entirely possible that your cemeteries around Ploesti still house American KIAs, while the Ardennes cemetery may house Romanian KIAs. In addition, there is a congressional push by some families of the some of our KIAs to disinter and identify some remains in both Ardennes and Ploesti.

This is a mess, and not an easy one to solve. It will ultimately result in some diplomatic work, but we are far away from it. The course of action now invokes many steps.

First, we have to have our data in order. For example, we would love to know a lot more about Major Unga and his work. Naturally, this can be done only through the proper Romanian Military Historical channels, and we're working on it. However, there are other things that will be much better served and answered by reaching out to the Ploesti community - or at least the citizens who are interested in our mutual history. This is why I am reaching out to you.

You may be a Ploesti resident. You have friends, who have friends, who have friends. I would very much like us to cooperate on this - of course, within your time and professional limits - to disseminate the news of our effort to elucidate this part of our mutual history. Facebook and other social media mechanisms make this possible.

Also, I hope to locate a few things about Ploesti, not necessarily in the following order:

1 Could we identify any elders who may have participated in the burials or
disinterment of the American bodies?
2 Are there any eyewitnesses who are still alive?
3 Is it possible to get some photos of the current plots of the Bolovan Cemetery,
where many American airmen were buried?
4. Is there any way to get clips from local newspapers from back then?
5. Can we put this on the local social media and, perhaps, even the local press?

There are many other questions I have, but I believe you see our point.

I am extremely grateful for anyone's time in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at adrian@memphismathtutors.com with any relevant info. We live in an upside down world today, and I believe that efforts such as this one will bring our nations closer together, our people more knowledgeable and more tolerant of one another and, in the end, this is just as much about the future as it is about the past.

Respectfully,

Adrian Keller
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dragos
Posted: July 28, 2016 08:24 am
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