A 21-year-old airman who was killed during one of the darkest days for U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II will finally be laid to rest in his hometown of Metuchen after scientists used DNA to identify his remains nearly 80 years after his death.
Sgt. Michael Uhrin was assigned to the 369th Bombardment Squadron, 306th Bombardment Group, 40th Combat Wing, 8th Air Force in the European Theater in October 1943, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
On Oct. 14, Uhrin was serving as the radio operator in a B-17F Flying Fortress bomber on a mission to Schweinfurt, Germany, when the plane was shot down by enemy fighters near Rommelhausen and Langenbergheim, Hessen — about an hour outside of Frankfurt, according a statement from the U.S military.
Uhrin was one of many missing and casualties that fateful day. Oct. 14, 1943, would later go down in infamy as “Black Thursday,” one of the bloodiest days for the U.S Army Air Forces in World War II.
Of the 291 bombers that departed on the mission to Schweinfurt that day, 60 were shot down, resulting in some 600 Airmen aircrew killed, wounded, or lost over enemy territory, according to military records from the National World War II Museum.
The surviving B-17 crew members said Uhrin was killed before the plane crashed, and none witnessed him bail out. His death was confirmed shortly after the crash, but there is no record of his burial location, the military said.
Newspaper archives say Uhrin graduated from Metuchen High School and was employed at Celotex Corporation prior to his induction in the U.S Air Force in September 1942. His brother, Joseph, was killed while on maneuvers with the Army in Orlando, according to previous reports.
Efforts to reach Uhrin’s surviving family were unsuccessful.
At the conclusion of the war, the American Graves Registration Command was tasked with investigating and recovering the missing personnel in Europe. The group conducted investigations around Rommelhausen and Langenbergheim, but couldn’t find any evidence associating recovered remains with Uhrin. The 21-year-old was declared non-recoverable in April 1955, according to the military.
However, DPAA historians have been conducting ongoing research focused on air losses over Germany. As a result, one set of remains, designated X-1660 St. Avold, was determined to be a strong candidate for association with Uhrin, the military said.
The remains, which had been buried in Ardennes American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission cemetery in Belgium, were disinterred in June 2021 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for examination and identification, according to a statement.
To identify Uhrin’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and austosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.
Uhrin’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in the United Kingdom, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Now, after nearly 80 years, Uhrin is finally back home.
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