World War II veteran missing for 80 years to be laid to rest in Illinois

After 80 years of being declared missing in action, a World War II veteran from southern Illinois will finally be laid to rest.

Tech. Sgt. Harold Kretzer, a 32-year-old from Odin, was serving as a gunner-engineer on a B-24 Liberator, when the aircraft failed to return to the Allied airfields in Libya following a mission over Romania on August 1, 1943.

Kretzer was one of 225 airmen lost during Operation Tidal Wave, along with 51 aircraft.

His remains, initially buried as an unknown soldier in Romania and later transferred to a cemetery in Belgium, were eventually identified through anthropological analysis and DNA testing.

Tech. Sgt. Harold Kretzer (ILNG Public Affairs Office )

According to the U.S. military’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Kretzer was officially accounted for on Aug. 23, 2022.

"We appreciate the effort of the U.S. Department of Defense to bring Uncle Harold home after 80 years and its continued effort to identify and bring others home no matter how much time has passed. We are also grateful to the many veterans organizations who tirelessly advocate for those who have served in this nation’s wars," said Glenda Thomas, Kretzer's grandniece.


Kretzer is scheduled to be buried on June 2 during a private memorial service in Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield.

Kretzer's service and sacrifice earned him several accolades, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, U.S. Army Air Force Flight Engineer Wings Badge, and Honorable Service Lapel Button - World War II.