Killed in World War II, B-24 Liberator gunner accounted for

Killed in WWII, B-24 Liberator gunner accounted for
U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Adolph “Leonard” Olenik (seated on the left). Photo credit DPAA

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Adolph “Leonard” Olenik, 19, of Detroit, killed during World War II, was accounted for Jan. 26, 2022.

In the summer of 1943, Olenik was assigned to the 345th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force. On Aug. 1, 1943, the B-24 Liberator aircraft on which Olenik was serving as a gunner crashed as a result of enemy anti-aircraft fire during Operation TIDAL WAVE, the largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania.

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His remains were not identified following the war. The remains that could not be identified were buried as Unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania.

Following the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), the organization that searched for and recovered fallen American personnel, disinterred all American remains from the Bolovan Cemetery for identification. The AGRC was unable to identify more than 80 unknowns from Bolovan Cemetery, and those remains were permanently interred at Ardennes American Cemetery and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, both in Belgium.

In 2017, DPAA began exhuming unknowns believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen from Operation TIDAL WAVE losses. These remains were sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for examination and identification.

Olenik Airman Accounted For From World War II
B-24 Liberator "Kate Smith." Photo credit DPAA

To identify Olenik’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental, anthropological, and chest radiograph analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

Olenik’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Olenik will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. The date has yet to be determined.