Pilot Accounted For From World War II (Horrigan, R.)

  • Published

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Richard W. Horrigan, 24, of Chester, West Virginia, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Aug. 19, 2021.

In April 1945, Horrigan was a pilot with the 22nd Fighter Squadron, 36th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force, serving in Germany. He was a part of an armed reconnaissance mission to the Alt Lönnewitz Airfield on April 19, piloting a P-47D Thunderbolt fighter. He crashed while strafing enemy planes parked at the airfield, likely due to anti-aircraft fire. Horrigan’s wingman witnessed the crash, but because the airfield was behind enemy lines, Horrigan could not be recovered. Once sufficient evidence became available that he had not survived, a Report of Death for Horrigan was issued in November 1945.

The American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) was charged with recovering the remains of fallen service members in the European Theater following the war. Because Alt Lönnewitz Airfield was under strict control of Soviet forces, they could not investigate Horrigan’s crash. A German national was able to investigate on behalf of the AGRC in 1953, confirming through an eyewitness human remains had been seen at the crash. However, they were never recovered and buried. Because the AGRC was not allowed to investigate the site, Horrigan was declared non-recoverable in October 1953.

In 2004, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, a DPAA predecessor, in conjunction with third-party researchers, investigated the site. It was approved for excavation in 2006. However, important site and logistical information was missing, and a recovery team was not sent out.

In March 2017, a DPAA investigation team returned to the site and located what they believed was Horrigan’s aircraft. In June 2019, DPAA contracted History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, to excavate the site. They recovered material evidence and possible remains that were initially transferred to the police in Herzberg, Germany, before being sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for analysis in August 2019.

To identify Horrigan’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

Horrigan’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Hombourg, Belgium, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Horrigan will be buried in his hometown. The date has yet to be determined.

For family and funeral information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490.

DPAA is appreciative to History Flight, Inc., for their partnership in this mission.

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, or find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.

Horrigan’s personnel profile can be viewed at https://dpaa-mil.sites.crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000Xk05EAC.