BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
With few clues to go on, Defense Logistics Agency Logistics Operations employee Roger Klaren can help identify a World War II era plane and solve a mystery decades old.
Klaren and his team have been called on hundreds of times by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to assist in identifying airplane parts from crash sites over 70 years old. If investigators can determine the exact airplane found, they can search flight records and match the crew manifest.
“Roger has been instrumental in helping our section in complying with our first responsibility – to identify the type, model and if possible, tail number of the aircraft involved,” said Howard Mariteragi, manager for the Life Support Investigation and Wreckage Analysis DPAA at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Recently life support investigators reached out to Klaren and his team with photos from a crash site in Papua, New Guinea.
Based on the part numbers provided, Klaren was able to access drawings to positively identify the parts for a P-38 Lightning aircraft using old technical manuals.
“We have a limited supply of technical manual and technical orders covering every aircraft that flew in Vietnam, Korea and World War II,” Mariteragi said.
Klaren identified the plane using drawings he has access to from a local World War II aviation society club. He is a longtime member of Kalamazoo Air Museum
Darrin Sinclair, chief of the DoD Demilitarization Coding Management Office, Logistics Information Services, DLA Logistics Operations, said his organization is often asked to DPAA confirm part numbers of military equipment. But Klaren is a unique asset.
“Roger is amazing,” Sinclair said. “In this case he was able to positively identify the aircraft via drawings he has access to that none of my other techs do because he is a member of a WWII aviation society.”
Identifying the plane and crewmen is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, Mariteragi said. Once an aircraft part is found, the team tackles the problem of identifying the exact aircraft. From that, they can determine the flight path and obtain the crew list.
“I wish we would have kept track of all the assists and resulting identification of an American lost in a war directly from the information supplied by Roger, but they number in the hundreds,” Mariteragi said. “I really mean it when I say that he has been instrumental in those recoveries.”
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
conducts global search, recovery and laboratory operations to identify unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts. Most of DPAA's daily operations involve investigating leads to recover and identify Americans who were killed in action but never brought home.
As of Nov. 20, more than 81,900 Americans remained missing from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Gulf Wars and other conflicts. Of those, 81,900 missing, 75% are located in the Indo-Pacific and over 41,000 are presumed lost at sea.