Join our brand new verified AMN Telegram channel and get important news uncensored!

Remains of Pittsburgh airman killed in World War II are being brought home

American flags (Tunnel to Towers/Facebook)

Leave no man behind.

Those words, a creed that began during the Revolutionary War and has since become a fixture of U.S. military protocol, are why Army Air Forces Tech. Sgt. Paul F. Eshelman Jr. is coming home to Pittsburgh more than 80 years after he was killed in World War II.

“There’s this honor from all service members and veterans that we will leave no stone unturned to bring (fallen) heroes home,” said Dr. Timothy McMahon, the DNA division chief of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced last week that it had identified the remains of Eshelman, 21, at an American cemetery for unknown heroes in Belgium.

Now, his body is being returned to the Steel City, where he lived before he answered the call of duty overseas. The Purple Heart recipient and Perry High School graduate will be buried in a North Hills cemetery at a later date.

Eshelman was the radio operator on one of the 51 bombers that never returned from a raid Aug. 1, 1943, during Operation Tidal Wave, a mission to destroy Axis oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, Romania.

While the operation was successful, enemy antiaircraft fire claimed the lives of hundreds of airmen.

Following the war, the American Graves Registration Command recovered the remains of many of them, but 80 were left unidentified — until six years ago, when DPAA began exhuming remains of the unaccounted-for airmen.

To identify Eshelman, scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, and forensic pathologists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used DNA.

So far, DPAA has accounted for 1,574 missing WWII soldiers since it began recovery work in 1973. The Armed Forces DNA identification lab partnered with the DPAA in 1991.

Of the approximate 72,115 American soldiers still missing from World War II, Dr. McMahon said he believes 39,000 of those bodies can be identified with DNA.

“When WWII ended in 1945, we hadn’t even defined DNA yet,” Dr. McMahon said. “We have an obligation to bring our fallen heroes home, to give families their loved ones back on U.S. soil.”

Last year, 162 new identifications were made, including two WWII soldiers who also hailed from Western Pennsylvania.

Lt. William Montgomery, 24, of Ford City, and Tech. Sgt. John Holoka Jr., 25, of Cresson, near Altoona, were identified last year from the wreck of a bomber that crashed in England in 1944.

Eshelman’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, DPAA said in a news release. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

“They gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedoms (bringing them home) is the least we can do for these young men and women,” Dr. McMahon said.


(c) 2024 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.