Flying Fortress Airman killed in WWII accounted for

Flying Fortress Airman killed in WWII accounted for
U.S. Army Air Forces Sgt. Francis W. Wiemerslage. Photo credit DPAA

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Air Forces Sgt. Francis W. Wiemerslage, 20, of River Grove, Illinois, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Aug. 24, 2021.

In March 1945, Wiemerslage was assigned to the 549th Bombardment Squadron, 385th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, serving in Germany. He was the ball turret gunner on a B-17G Flying Fortress bomber during a bombing mission over Dresden, on March 2.

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Enemy fighters attacked the bomber between Berlin and Leipzig, and the plane was shot down. Two of the nine crew members survived the incident, while the rest, including Wiemerslage, were killed. Seven men were reportedly recovered from the wreckage and buried near Züllsdorf. After the war ended, there was no evidence of Wiemerslage being a prisoner of war or having survived, so a Finding of Death was issued a year after the crash.

The American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) was charged with recovering the remains of fallen service members in the European Theater following the war. During a series of investigations of the Züllsdorf area between 1947 and 1949, the remains of all of the airmen who died in the B-17 crash, except for Wiemerslage, were found and identified.

After 1950, worsening diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, who controlled this part of Germany at the time, prevented the AGRC from investigating further. In November 1953, two German citizens conducted another search of the area on behalf of the AGRC, finding some bones, including the jaw with some teeth, and part of a wallet. However, it does not appear any further evidence was found.

Wiermerslage’s records from the time indicate the dental record was favorable and the wallet bore the initials “F.W.” In March 1954, the remains were interred, to be held until the recovery of additional remains could be completed.

In June 2019, DPAA contracted Western Carolina University to excavate several possible locations around the area of Züllsdorf where the remains and wallet were found in the 1950s. Possible osseous material and possible material evidence was found and initially transferred to the Brandenburg Institute for Forensic Medicine before being sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for scientific analysis.