METROPOLIS, Ill. - An Illinois sergeant who was killed during World War II has been accounted for, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Tuesday.
U.S. Army Air Forces Tech Sgt. William L. Leukering, 28, of Metropolis, Ill., was a radio operator on a B-17G Flying Fortress that was struck by enemy anti-aircraft during a bombing raid on German air defense installations in Memmingen, Germany in 1944.
Because of the damage, the pilot ordered the crew to bail out. Six of the airmen parachuted safely while the other five crew members, including Leukering, were believed to be still on board.
The surviving crew members witnessed the aircraft explode in an area south of Memmingen, Germany.
Leukering’s body was not recovered, and the Germans never reported him as a prisoner of war, DPAA said. The War Department issued a finding of death on July 19, 1945.
Starting in 1946, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), Army Quartermaster Corps, was tasked with recovering missing American personnel in the European Theater. In the area of the crash site, personnel discovered two sets of remains. However, neither was associated with Leukering. He was declared non-recoverable on July 26, 1951.
In 2012, a German researcher notified the Department of Defense about an aircraft crash site near Kimratshofen, Germany, which could be associated with Leukering's B-17. This led to an investigation in 2013 and excavation efforts in 2018. At the site, possible human remains and material evidence were discovered.
In 2019, a DPAA partner team affiliated with the University of New Orleans persisted in their efforts at the Kimratshofen site, retrieving further artifacts, subsequently conveyed to the DPAA laboratory.
Scientists from DPAA employed dental and anthropological analysis to identify Leukering's remains. Furthermore, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System utilized mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis for this purpose. He was officially accounted for on March 20, 2023. However, his family had only recently received a full briefing on his identification.
Leukering's name is inscribed on the Walls of the Missing at the Epinal American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Epinal, France, alongside others still unaccounted for from WWII. A rosette will be affixed next to his name to signify his identification.
Leukering is scheduled to be laid to rest in Round Knob, Illinois, on a yet-to-be-determined date.