Remains of Army Air Forces airman killed in WWII identified

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

An American service member killed in a large bombing mission in Romania during World War II has been accounted for, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Army Air Forces Tech. Sgt. Harold Kretzer, 32, of Odin, Illinois, was a gunner-engineer assigned to the 66th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 8th Air Force, according to the agency.

He was on a B-24 Liberator Bomber during Operation Tidal Wave on Aug. 1, 1943 when enemy fire struck the bomber and it crashed. The plane was one of 51 aircraft that did not return from the mission, and Kretzer’s remains were unidentified after the war.

Operation Tidal Wave was intended to cut off oil supply for the Axis powers by targeting fields and refiners at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania. While American airmen successfully damaged the refineries, Germany had been prepared with anti-aircraft guns circling Ploesti before the first wave of bombers arrived from Libya, according to researchers.

Hundreds of U.S. Army Air Forces airmen were killed during Operation Tidal Wave in Romania.

Some were buried and later identified by the American Graves Registration Command.

The remains of more than 80 unidentified American personnel had been interred at Ardennes America Cemetery and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, both in Belgium, until 2017. The DPAA began exhuming remains believed to be associated with airmen lost in Operation Tidal Wave, moving them to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for examination and, hopefully, identification.

Agency scientists identified Kretzer’s remains on Aug. 23, 2022, using DNA and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence.

A rosette will be placed next to Kretzer’s name on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Impruneta, Italy, to indicate he has been accounted for.

He will be buried in Springfield, Illinois, at an undetermined date.