A 21-year-old U.S. Army Air Forces staff sergeant, who was shot down by enemy fighters in Germany during World War II, will make his way back home 79 years later.
Michael Uhrin’s remains were accounted for on May 12, but his family only recently received their full briefing on his identification, according to the Defense POW/MIA (Prisoner of War/Missing in Action) Accounting Agency (DPAA) on Dec. 13.
In October 1943, Uhrin was assigned to 369th Bombardment Squadron, 306th Bombardment Group, 40th Combat Wing, 8th Air Force in the European Theater.
On Oct. 14, 1943, the B-17F Flying Fortress bomber on which he was serving as the radio operator was flying a mission to Schweinfurt, Germany, when it was shot down by enemy fighters near Rommelhausen and Langenbergheim, Hessen, Germany. Uhrin’s bomber was one of 60 aircraft to be lost during the mission. The surviving B-17 crew members said Uhrin was killed before the plane crashed, and none witnessed him bail out. His death was confirmed shortly after the crash, but there is no record of his burial location, according to DPAA.
Following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) was tasked with investigating and recovering missing American personnel in Europe. They conducted investigations around Rommelhausen and Langenbergheim, but couldn’t find any concrete evidence associating recovered remains with Uhrin. He was declared non recoverable in April 1955.
DPAA historians are conducting ongoing, comprehensive research focused on air losses over Germany as part of a partnership mission with American Battle Monuments Commission and the U.S. Army Regional Mortuary-Europe/Africa.
As a result, one set of remains, designated X-1660 St. Avold, was determined to be a strong candidate for association with Uhrin. The remains, which had been buried in Ardennes American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission cemetery in Belgium, were disinterred in June 2021 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., for examination and identification, according to DPAA.
To identify Uhrin’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), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and austosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis, according to DPAA.
His name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in the United Kingdom, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to Uhrin’s name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Uhrin is one of 30 service members from Metuchen who sacrificed their lives for our nation in World War II, a devastating number which includes his late brother Joseph, who was killed in January 1943 and served as Metuchen’s first known casualty in that War. Joseph Uhrin is buried at Hillside Cemetery, according to Mayor Jonathan Busch.
“Our borough owes a debt of gratitude to the Uhrin family for their extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our nation and we are so proud to learn that, after 79 years, Uhrin’s remains will be coming home to also be buried at Hillside Cemetery in his hometown of Metuchen this spring,” the mayor said in a social media post. “Although Uhrin’s immediate family will never know that Michael’s remains would come back to Metuchen, it should give us all great comfort to know that our nation never forgot him and will continue to honor his legacy.”
According to news clippings, Uhrin was a graduate of Metuchen High School and Middlesex County Vocational School and was employed by Celotex Corporation before entering the service in 1942.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.