WASHINGTON (WJMN/WOOD) — The remains of a U.S. Army Air Forces Flight Officer from Marquette, Michigan, who was killed during WWII have been identified, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced on Friday.
In the summer of 1944, U.S. Army Air Forces Flight Officer Chester L. Rinke, 33, was assigned to the 678th Bombardment Squadron, 444th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), 58th Bombardment Wing, Twentieth Bomber Command.
According to the DPAA, on June 26, 1944, while serving as the flight officer on the B-29 Superfortress, the plane crashed into a rice paddy in the village of Sapekhati, India, after a bombing raid on Imperial iron and steel works at Yawata, Kyushu Island, Japan. All 11 crew members, including Rinke, were killed instantly in the crash.
On June 28, 1944, the bodies were recovered. Only seven sets of the remains were identified, which were interred at the United States Military Cemetery in Panitola, Assam, India, before being disinterred and sent to their final internment on Jan. 13, 1948. The DPAA said by September of that year, the American Graves Registration Command concluded that Rinke’s remains were non-recoverable.
In October 2014, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command found the crash site and recovered life support equipment and wreckage from the B29 aircraft.
In 2018 and 2019, Southeastern Archaeological Research, a DPAA partner organization, excavated the site and recovered possible remains and material evidence.
DPAA said scientists used anthropological analysis, material evidence and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to identify Rinke on May 5, 2023.
Rinke will be buried at Seville, Ohio, on a date to be determined.