The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, lost during World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces Maj. Peyton S. Mathis, Jr., 28, of Montgomery, Ala., will be buried Jan. 3, 2015, in his hometown. On June 5, 1944, Mathis was the pilot of a P-38J Lightning on a bombing mission on Japanese gun positions in the Shortland-Poporang area of the northern Solomons Islands. En route Mathis lost power in his right engine. At approximately the same time the mission was canceled. Mathis crashed while attempting to land at Kukum Air Field on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Islands. A rescue team located the crash site the same day, but was unable to recover Mathis because the aircraft was submerged in water in a dense jungle swamp.
In 1949, an Army Graves Registration Company searched for Mathis’ P-38J, but was unable to locate it. He was subsequently declared nonrecoverable.
In 2012, while surveying another crash site, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was led by local individuals to another crash site. JPAC surveyed the area and in 2013 JPAC excavated the site. While there in 2013 the team took possession of additional remains that were in custody of the local police department. These additional remains were reported as being found by local villagers prior to the team’s arrival to excavate the site.
To identify Mathis’ remains, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, to include dental comparisons and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Mathis’ maternal-line cousin.