Roanoke man killed in action identified after 77 years

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 11:57 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ/DPAA Release) - A Roanoke man has been identified as having been killed in military action in 1945.

Army Air Forces Pfc. Edward H. Benson, Jr., 22, was killed during World War II, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

In March 1945, Benson was assigned to the 1562nd Army Air Force Base Unit on Biak Island, part of the modern-day Republic of Indonesia. He and 39 other service members were killed during a Japanese air raid Sorido Airstrip March 22. Of those 40, three, including Benson, could not be identified or accounted for after the attack.

Following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) was tasked with investigating and recovering missing American personnel in the Pacific Theater. Army and Army Air Force cemeteries in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific were consolidated in a large cemetery complex in Finschhafen in modern-day Papua New Guinea.

The attempt to identify and account for Benson was intertwined with similar attempts to identify and account for three other service members killed in the air raid. After several examinations, misidentifications, burials, exhumations, and re-examinations between 1945 and 1953, according to DPAA, the other three men were conclusively identified, but one set of remains, designated X-188 Finschhafen #3, couldn’t be positively identified. X-188 was buried at Fort William McKinley Cemetery, now known as Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, in the Philippines, and Benson was declared non-recoverable.

In May 2003, Benson’s son, James H. Benson, reached out to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), a DPAA predecessor, requesting another assessment of association between his father and X-188. Later that year, he also submitted a thorough, detailed research report by retired Marine Col. Jack O. Forgy about the complexities of the case, according to DPAA. Disinterment was not a common practice for JPAC, despite attempts by Benson’s son to move the case forward over the years. Shortly after DPAA was formed in 2015, Benson’s son reached out in another attempt to move the case forward. X-188 was disinterred in January 2020 and sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, for analysis.

To identify Benson’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

Benson’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Manila, Philippines, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Benson will be buried May 14, 2022, in Roanoke..

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