Every year, on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, fallen U.S. service members are remembered during Veteran’s Day. As well as those who were killed in action, we also remember the troops classified as Missing in Action (MIA).
Every month, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Office ( DPAA ), painstakingly and diligently reduces the number of missing servicemen. Since our November 2018 article, two new local cases have been resolved.
Earlier this year on July 8th, World War II Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Paul Cybowski of South Plainfield, New Jersey, was positively identified. Sgt. Cybowski has been classified as ‘missing in action’ since his 373rd bombardment squadron encountered Japanese fighter pilots on September 15th, 1943 over Japanese held Hai Phong Harbor, now Vietnam. The American casualties were subsequently buried in a French Indochina cemetery and eventually relocated to Hawaii. In April, 2019, DPAA had the 75 year old remains disinterred for laboratory analysis.
As a result of the identification, Sgt. Paul Cybowski’s remains were returned home to his family. He was buried with full military honors this past September. Paul’s younger sister was in attendance at the funeral. She was only six years old at the time her brother was lost. She remembers watching Paul leave the house, anxious and ready to serve.
When a missing service member has been found, a rosette is etched alongside his name. Sgt. Cybowski’s name remains etched on the ‘Walls of the Missing‘ at the American Cemetery in Manila. The rosette indicates he is no longer considered MIA.
A rosette has also been placed by the name of Navy Seaman 1st Class Walter C. Foley of Brooklyn, New York. Seaman Foley was 18 years old, serving on the USS Oklahoma when the ship was bombed by Japanese fighter pilots on December 7th. He was one of 429 sailors killed on the Oklahoma during the attack.
Dr. Carrie Brown leads the USS Oklahoma project for DPAA. Her lab walls at the Offutt Air Base in Oklahoma are filled with photos taken while the ship was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. Seaman 1st Class Foley’s identification was the 200 identification of the victims of the USS Oklahoma bombing.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. At the end of the war, there were approximately 79,000 Americans unaccounted for. This number included those buried with honor as unknowns, officially buried at sea, lost at sea, and missing in action.
Today, more than 72,000 Americans remain unaccounted for from WWII.
Please join New York Harbor Channel in recognizing the ultimate sacrifice made by our service members this Veteran’s Day 2019.