John Holoka: WWII air force officer's remains identified 79 years after he was killed in action
WASHINGTON, DC: After nearly eight decades, the remains of a US Air Force officer, John Holoka Jr, have been identified. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is the agency behind identifying the remains of Holoka, a 25-year-old technical sergeant from Cresson, Pennsylvania.
Holoka was killed in action during World War II in June 1944. However, the remains were found in the United Kingdom in 2021, and were recently confirmed that it belongs to Holoka through DNA tests and anthropological analyses.
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The pilot was able to fly the damaged aircraft to the coast of England
Holoka was one of the ten airmen aboard a B-24H Liberator bomber that was badly damaged by anti-aircraft after a raid on a German airfield in Saint-Cyr-l'École, France, near Versailles, The pilot, Lt William B Montgomery, was able to fly the damaged aircraft to the coast of England as per Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency news release.
He ordered the crew to bail out, allowing seven airmen to parachute to safety before the plane ultimately crashed with Montgomery, Holoka, and one other member of the crew still inside. Two crew members who landed safely on the ground reported seeing the aircraft crash into a farm in West Sussex.
The Army Quartermaster Corps' American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), which was established in 1946, was in charge of finding American service members who went missing in the European Theater. The accident site was examined by AGRC investigators in November 1947, but no more crew members' corpses were found. On May 10, 1950, Holoka was deemed to be unrecoverable.
In 1974, a group tried to excavate the site of a plane crash to find parts. The US Department of Defense conducted investigations in 2017, 2019, and June 2021, during which human remains and other evidence were found.
'It brings tears to my eyes'
Holoka's niece, 78-year-old Susanne Ciarello of Long Island, New York, expressed her emotions over the discovery. She told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "It brings tears to my eyes. To me, it is so amazing, so unbelievable, they identified my uncle and found his dog tags." Ciarello also shared that Holoka was meant to be her godfather, but little was said about him because her mother would get emotional. She added, "I only wish she was alive to see this."
Holoka as per the news release will be buried with his parents in Portage, near Cresson, instead of at Arlington National Cemetery on May 1. The DPAA's work continues to identify and recover American military personnel missing in action or killed in action, helping to bring closure to their families.