The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced yesteryday that U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Robert J. Ferris Jr., 20, of Jamaica, Queens, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Sept. 22, 2023.
In December of 1942, Ferris was assigned to the 401st Bombardment Squadron, 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eighth Air Force. On December 20, Ferris was a crewmember onboard a B-17F “Flying Fortress,” nicknamed Danellen, when it was struck by anti-aircraft fire after a bombing raid on a German aircraft factory at Romilly-sur-Seine, France.
Ferris’s aircraft was last seen spinning towards the ground, crashing near the village of Bernières-sur-Seine, France. Only one airman parachuted successfully, while the other eight crew members, including Ferris, were still on board. A villager witnessed the crash and confirmed there was only one survivor. The War Department issued a finding of death for Staff Sgt. Ferris on Sept. 23, 1943.
Beginning in 1946, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), Army Quartermaster Corps, was the organization tasked with recovering missing American personnel in the European Theater.
Following the war, the AGRC disinterred four sets of remains later designated as X-83, X-84, X-85, and X-86 St. Andre from Evreux cemetery. They were unable to identify the remains and were interred at the Normandy American Cemetery.
In 2011, a family member of one of the Danellen crew contacted the Department of Defense after visiting the crash site and interviewing a witness who had artifacts belonging to the Danellen.
In April 2011, DPAA historians re-analyzed the unknowns associated with the crew and determined there was enough evidence to pursue the case.
In October that year, a DPAA Investigation Team traveled to Bernières-sur-Seine to interview the witness and learned the crash site was completely destroyed.
In March 2019, the Department of Defense and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) exhumed the unknown remains designated X-83, X-85, and X-86 St. Andre believed to be associated with the crew of the Danellen, including Staff Sgt. Ferris, from Normandy American Cemetery.
To identify Ferris’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Ferris’s name is recorded on the memorialized on the Wall of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Cambridge, England, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Ferris will be buried in New Bern, NC, on a date to be determined.
View Ferris’s personnel profile here.
For family and funeral information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490.
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 on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa.