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World War II airman from Texas identified 80 years after being killed in action

Posted at 8:38 AM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 10:38:05-05

A World War II soldier has been identified 80 years after he was killed in action in Eastern Europe.

The Defense POW/MIA Account Agency announced Wednesday that the previously unidentified man was confirmed to be U.S. Army Air Forces Tech Sgt. Frank C. Ferrel. Ferrel was from Roby, Texas and was 31 years old when he died.

His remains were "accounted for" on Jan. 10, 2023, the agency said.

According to the agency, Ferrel was a member of the 328th Bombardment Squadron. He was an engineer on a B-24 Liberator bomber during Operation TIDAL WAVE, the "largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania," the agency said.

Ferrel's aircraft was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire on Aug. 1, 1943. The plane crashed. His remains were not identified following the war, and they were "buried as Unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery" in Ploiesti. Those remains were disinterred by the American Graves Registration Command after the war, the agency said, but they were not identified. More than 80 other sets of remains from the cemetery were also not identified.

Frank C. Ferrel

Those unidentified remains were permanently interred at two American cemeteries in Belgium, where they remained until 2017, when the agency began exhuming unknown remains believed to be associated with Operation TIDAL WAVE losses.

Once exhumed, the remains were sent to the agency's laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where they were examined and identified using anthropological analysis and mitochondrial DNA analysis. These methods were used to confirm Ferrel's remains.

Now that Ferrel has been identified, a funeral is being planned in Sylvester, Texas. The agency did not say whether any family members are still alive. A newspaper clipping shared by the agency indicates that Ferrel was married. Another newspaper clipping states that he had two siblings. Before joining the military, he was a schoolteacher and local football coach.

Frank C. Ferrel on a parked plane.

Ferrel's name was previously recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Italy. The agency said a rosette will be put next to his name to show that he has been identified.

The agency aims to identify the remains of soldiers and return them to their families. According to the agency, more than 81,500 American soldiers remain missing.