Local airman found, returned for burial

Flight Officer Chester L. Rinke had been missing since 1944

Chester Rinke, top row far right, was a Marquette native serving in World War II as a United States Army Air Forces flight officer. His remains were identified on May 5 by the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency. Rinke was killed in action at the age of 33. He will be buried at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman, Ohio, on Nov. 6. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — The remains of a soldier who was a Marquette native will be buried in Ohio.

United States Army Air Forces Flight Officer Chester L. Rinke, an airman killed during World War II, will be buried at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman, Ohio, on Nov. 6.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, in the summer of 1944, Rinke was assigned to the 678th Bombardment Squadron, 444th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), 58th Bombardment Wing, 20th Bomber Command.

On June 26 of that year, Rinke, while serving as the flight officer on a B-29 Superfortress, crashed into a rice paddy in the village of Sapekhati, India, after a bombing raid on Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, Kyushu Island, Japan. All 11 crew members were killed instantly in the crash.

On June 28, 1944, a team from from the 342nd Service Squadron, 329th Service Group visited the crash site recovering and identifying only seven sets of remains, which were interred at the United States Military Cemetery in Panitola, Assam, India, and subsequently disinterred and sent to their final internment on Jan. 13, 1948.

By September of that year, the American Graves Registration Command concluded that Rinke’s remains were nonrecoverable.

In October 2014, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (a DPAA predecessor organization) conducted a joint field activity in Sapekhati, which led to the location of the crash site and the recovery of life-support equipment and wreckage associated with the B-29 aircraft.

In 2018 and 2019, Southeastern Archaeological Research, a DPAA partner organization, excavated the site and recovered possible osseous remains and material evidence.

To identify Rinke’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis.

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


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