The remains of a 24-year-old U.S. pilot who never returned from a bombing mission in World War II have been accounted for and confirmed, officials from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Monday.
Charles G. Reynolds was a U.S. Army Air Forces first lieutenant from Bridgeport, Ohio, the agency said in a news release. In late 1943, he was a pilot assigned to the 498th Bombardment Squadron in the Pacific Theater. On Nov. 27, 1943, the plane that he was a crewmember of did not return from a bombing mission near Wewak, New Guinea, the agency said, because the aircraft had taken heavy damage and was forced to make an emergency landing in a lagoon. Efforts to recover Reynolds’s remains failed, and the crew was labeled missing in action at the time.
After the war, an organization called the Grave Registration Service searched for fallen American soldiers and personnel. Their searches included “exhaustive searches of battle areas and crash sites in New Guinea,” and while searching the area where the plane had gone down, they found wreckage associated with the aircraft and “fragmentary sets of human remains,” the agency said.
The remains were interred at Fort McKinley Cemetery in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, after being declared unidentifiable. It wasn’t until 2019, when a recovery team working in the same area found “possible material evidence,” that some of those remains were exhumed and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Laboratory where tests could be run.
According to the Defense Department, scientists identified the remains as belonging to Reynolds by using dental and anthropological analysis, material evidence and circumstantial evidence as well as mitochondrial DNA analysis.
Because Reynolds has now been accounted for, a rosette will be placed next to his name on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.
His remains will be buried in Bridgeport, Ohio. An obituary states that a ceremony honoring his life will be held on Sept. 23, 2023. According to the obituary, Reynolds’s parents and siblings died before he was identified, as did some of his nieces and nephews. However, he is survived by three nieces and nephews and “many” great and great-great nieces and nephews, the obituary said. He will be buried with his parents.
“After 80 years, he will be returned to his family to be laid to rest as a hero, alongside his parents, who preceded him in death,” the obituary said.
An account claiming to be Darlene Craver, the wife of one of Reynolds’s nephews, left a comment on the obituary saying that she had heard family stories about the missing pilot since 1962.
“What fond memories I heard from his sisters, including my sweet mother-in-law. I would have loved to have met ‘Uncle Chuck!'” Carver wrote. “Uncle Chuck was a star basketball player, friendly, handsome, all around good guy, who was well liked and loved by many! May he finally rest in peace. To have this closure in our lifetime is amazing, and so appreciated!”
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has accounted for more than 1,500 missing World War II soldiers since beginning its work in 1973. Government figures show that more than 72,000 soldiers from the war are still missing.