LANSING, Mich. — In 1943, U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Robert Parker of Lansing, Michigan went missing while serving his country in World War II. Now, more than 77 years later, Parker is officially accounted for, and his remains have been brought home.
In November of 1943, Parker was on a patrol mission in Papua New Guinea, when he encountered an enemy aircraft on the southern edge of Finisterre Range.
He shot down one plane, but collided with another and the impact tore off his plane's wing. He crashed down near Saagarak.
“Based on reporting from other pilots that were part of that same patrol, he did not bail out," said Sgt. Sean Everette, a public affairs spokesperson for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Parker was declared missing in action after an unsuccessful area search, but the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency never stopped searching for him.
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“Yes, it took a long time, because it took a long time to get the right clues and find the right locations, and things like that," Everette said. "But it is our solemn duty to never leave a fallen comrade and we take that very seriously."
Everette said that in 2008, they sent an investigation team out to a village that was near where the crash was suspected to have happened.
In 2010, a team of third-party investigators visited an aircraft crash site in Morobe Province where they found a portion of a P-40N tail assembly and part of a possible tail number, both of which matched Parker’s aircraft.
The agency returned in 2019 and was able to negotiate with the village to take Parker's remains to the U.S. to run tests. They matched his DNA to family members using a DNA references system.
On March 9, Armed Medical Forces identified Parker as accounted for.
Parker’s name is on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to show he has been accounted for.
This story was originally published by Yasmeen Ludy on Scripps station WSYM in Lansing, Michigan.