Maltese divers help find US Sergeant who went missing in action

Announcement brings closure to a decades-long chapter.

The assistance of the University of Malta’s technical diving team, led by archaeologist Prof. Timmy Gambin, was pivotal in helping the family and loved ones of U.S. Army Air Forces Sergeant Irving R. Newman. Sgt. Newman, went missing in action during World War II, find closure. Sgt. Newman has been officially accounted for as of June 20.

Prof. Gambin further commented how: “Being trusted by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to execute this mission is a huge honour for the University of Malta and its Maritime Archaeology Research Programme. Through our partnership with the DPAA we can make a small contribution to bring closure for families who lost their loved ones in past conflicts”

Sgt. Irving R. Newman, aged 22, hailing from Los Angeles, California, was a member of the 343d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force. His aircraft, a B-24D Liberator, was part of a bombing mission over Reggio di Calabria harbour, Italy, in May 1943. Unfortunately, the plane encountered engine trouble and struggled back to Malta where it crashed into the waters near Benghajsa Point. Despite some heroic attempts by his fellow crew members to rescue him, Sgt. Newman went down with the plane and was declared as missing in action.

Years of perseverance and collaboration between organisations led to the breakthrough in locating the wreckage of the B-24D near Benghajsa Point. Recovery efforts, supported by DPAA archaeology and an expert team of technical divers yielded material evidence, life support equipment, and suspected human remains from the crash site.

The University of Malta’s dedicated deep-water team played a pivotal role in the recovery process. Over two fieldwork seasons, Prof. Gambin and his team meticulously excavated in and around the plane wreck, located at a depth of 58 meters. Their tireless efforts greatly contributed to the successful recovery of Sgt. Newman’s remains. Locally, the project also found the support of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and that of Heritage Malta. Volunteer personnel from the US Embassy in Malta were indispensable to making this project a success.

The identification of Sgt. Newman’s remains involved a meticulous process. DPAA scientists conducted anthropological analysis, and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System employed mitochondrial DNA and dental analysis to confirm the identity.

Sgt. Newman’s name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Impruneta, Italy. This is an American Battle Monuments Commission site dedicated to those missing from WWII. In honour of his official accounting, a rosette will be placed next to his name on the memorial.

This announcement brings closure to a decades-long chapter, honouring the service and sacrifice of Sgt. Irving R. Newman and providing solace to his family and friends. The DPAA’s commitment to fulfilling its mission of accounting for missing service members continues to bring hope and closure to countless families across the nation.

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