The remains of an American airman who went missing after his plane was shot down over France during World War II have been found and identified almost 80 years later.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Franklin P. Hall, of Leesburg, Florida, was killed on January 21, 1944, when his B-24D Liberator “Queen Marlene” was shot down by the German Luftwaffe near the rural village of Équennes-Éramecourt, southwest from Amiens.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) said in a press release Monday that the shooter was officially declared missing on July 13 of this year.
This announcement marks the end of a long and complex process that is repeated with many other American service members who are believed to have died but whose remains are missing.
Two other service members aboard the “Queen Marlene” — William L. Smith and Martin E. Spelts — are still missing, according to Hall’s profile on the DPAA website.
After the plane was shot down, German forces quickly went to the crash site and recovered the remains of the nine men on board, the DPAA said. These bodies were later buried in a cemetery in Poix-de-Picardie, but Hall’s remains could not be identified.
The American Graves Registration Command, which led the operation to find the remains of American soldiers in Europe, declared in 1951 that despite searches of the area, Hall was “irrecoverable.”
However, in 2018, DPAA historians discovered that two different burials at the Normandy American Cemetery – managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission – may contain Hall’s remains.
The burials were exhumed and studied by anthropological analysis and DNA sequencing. One of them, listed as “American MIA, X-393 (St. Andre)”, was declared to be Hall’s.
“Hall’s name is recorded in the tablets of the missing at the Ardennes American Cemetery, France, along with others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he was found,” said the DPAA press release.
Hall served in the 66th Bombardment Squadron, 44th Bombardment Group.
This squadron fought in North Africa before being assigned to occupied Europe, where its aviators carried out “daylight raids which put bomber crews in great danger from enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft fire”, according to the American Air Museum.
Between 1943 and 1945, the 44th Bombardment Group flew 343 missions, dropped nearly 19,000 tons of bombs, and 153 aircraft were lost in action.
Hall is now to be buried in his hometown of Leesburg.