The remains of missing in action WWII pilot have been repatriated back to the U.S. and will be returned home to Arkansas
Washington, DC— August 5, 2021….Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) and U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today announced the remains of U.S. serviceman Lt. Henry Donald Mitchell, who was missing in action from World War II, have been identified and will be returned home to Arkansas for burial with full military honors at the Fayetteville National Cemetery. The news comes after a decades-long search—and the joint efforts of the Mitchell family, Arkansas congressional members, Department of Defense, and international representatives—to find and identify Lt. Mitchell.
Congressman Womack said, “Lieutenant Henry Donald Mitchell is coming home. For us, Lt. Mitchell was an American hero who helped defend freedom against tyranny. For Bob, he was not only that, but also a brother. He felt a duty to bring his loved one home and never gave up. It was our privilege to be part of that mission. My office’s greatest responsibility is to our constituents, and we used every diplomatic and agency tool to navigate a complicated situation. I thank the relentless work of Chris Bader in my Fort Smith Office and every stakeholder involved. This was about serving those who served us.”
Senator Boozman said, “On behalf of a grateful nation, we are thankful for Lt. Mitchell’s service and sacrifice. This is a reminder of the cost of war and reaffirms our commitment to ensure that our service members return home. There is nothing better than helping reunite these brothers. Bob has been a relentless advocate for his big brother and we are honored to play a role in his homecoming.”
Bob Mitchell, Brother of Lt. Mitchell and Fort Smith resident, said, “I’m glad it happened when it did. I’m 91 years old now and was concerned I would pass away before we got him home.”
On July 8, 1944, shortly before noon near Waldegg, Austria, 23-year-old Lt. Henry Donald Mitchell crashed after his aircraft, a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, was shot down during a mission with the 48th Fighter Squadron. After an enemy aircraft opened fire on the unit, Lt. Mitchell had radioed in “Green Two, O.K.,” but was never heard from or seen again.
In 1997, Lt. Mitchell’s younger brother, Bob, a Fort Smith resident, began a search to find his WWII hero brother and bring his remains back to Arkansas. He reached out to then-U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson’s congressional office for help in obtaining military records, which is when official casework began.
Since that time, Congressman Womack’s and U.S. Senator John Boozman’s staff members began exploring all avenues to learn the fate of Lt. Mitchell. The information led to Womack’s office connecting with Markus Reisner, who leads a group in Austria that searches for downed World War II aircraft.
In 2017, using information from the U.S. military and interviews with locals who recalled the crash, Reisner and his group found Henry Mitchell’s P-38. However, the landowner would not allow an excavation of the property. Womack and Boozman staff members immediately connected with the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and diplomats between the United States and Austria to allow for recovery operations to move forward.
Thanks to these efforts, the DPAA was able to begin search and excavation operations on the crash site in 2020. The remains of Lt. Mitchell were found, identified, and repatriated to the U.S. As a special honor for the fallen pilot, a restored Lockheed P-38 of Salzburg’s The Flying Bulls flew over the site where Lt. Mitchell’s remains were found.