Remains of WWII airman missing since 1944 to be returned to AL for burial

Published: Jun. 23, 2015 at 8:29 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2015 at 8:29 PM CDT
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SYLACAUGA, AL (WSFA) - The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced on Tuesday that a United States serviceman, who went missing during World War II, has been identified as an Alabama man and is being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

The man has been identified as Army Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Jimmie D. Collins III, 22, of Sylacauga, Alabama.

According to the DPAA, on June 21, 1944, Collins was the co-pilot of a B-24H Liberator that crashed near Hoofddorp, Netherlands, while returning from a bombing mission against German forces near Berlin. Nine other servicemen were aboard the aircraft at the time of the crash.

During the crash, one of the servicemen was able to parachute from the Liberator, was captured by German forces, and was later returned to U.S. custody. All other servicemen, including Collins, were reported as killed in action.

After WWII ended, captured German records revealed that the remains of seven American servicemen were recovered from the crash site and buried in a cemetery in Hoofddorp. U.S. Army Graves Registration Services personnel exhumed the remains, and identified the seven servicemen, leaving only Collins and one other serviceman unaccounted for.

From February 1946 to July 1947, The AGRS conducted investigations in the vicinity of the B-24 crash, but no additional remains were recovered at that time.

On Sept. 20, 1950, an Army Graves Registration Command review board declared the remains to be non-recoverable.

Then 42 years later, in September 1992, a brother of one of the crew members visited the Netherlands to learn more about the crash. While there, the brother spoke to a third party researcher who believed the remains of the two missing crewmen may still be present at the crash site.

A grave registration team from the U.S. Army Memorial Affairs Activity-Europe visited the possible crash site near a village in Vijfhizen, Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands, and located large metal objects underground using metal detectors.

Due to a policy within the Netherlands, a Royal Netherlands Air Force Recovery Service salvage team carried out the excavation of the site in April 1997 with oversight from the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii. The team was able to recover the remains of the two missing servicemen and personal effects.

In order to identify Collins' remains, scientist from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including mitochondrial DNA, which matched his aunt and uncle.

Collins will be buried on June 29, in his hometown of Sylacauga.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for Americans, who went missing while serving in the United States military, visit the DPAA website or call 703-699-1420.

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