WASHINGTON – The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest N. Vienneau, 25, of Millinocket, Maine, killed during World War II, was accounted for April 16, 2021.
In the fall of 1944, Vienneau was a pilot assigned to the 340th Bombardment Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, based out of Amendola, Italy. On Nov. 6, the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber on which he was serving as co-pilot came under heavy anti-aircraft fire while on a mission over Maribor, Yugoslavia, in present-day Slovenia. During the barrage, a piece of flak penetrated the cockpit and struck Vienneau in the head, mortally wounding him. While the crew treated Vienneau, the pilot attempted to fly the damaged B-17 back to base. However, the aircraft could not make it and the pilot was forced to ditch off the coast of Vis Island, Croatia. The surviving 10 crew made it out of the aircraft, but Vienneau’s body could not be recovered from the rapidly sinking B-17. Following the war, his remains could not be found and recovered.
In 2005, an analyst from the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), a predecessor to DPAA, received information concerning the wreck of a B-17, and later met with an official from the Croatian Administration for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, who gave them information on the wreckage. However, definitive proof that this was Vienneau’s aircraft could not be obtained at that time.
In June 2017, DPAA partnered with Lone Wolf Productions to document the underwater excavation of a B-24 Liberator aircraft wreckage off the coast of Vis Island, Croatia. The film became an episode of the PBS Nova program entitled "The Last B-24," which can be viewed at https://www.pbs.org/video/last-b-24-pequsf/. When the excavation was hampered by inclement weather, the team relocated the Croatian Navy ship to conduct a brief investigative dive on other wreckage believed to be Vienneau's B-17. This efforts is also featured in "The Last B-24" along with an interview with Vienneau's niece. Enough evidence was collected from that dive to enable an underwater recovery to be planned. In the fall of 2020, personnel from DPAA, Lund University, University of Zadar, the Croatian Conservation Institute, and the Croatian military recovered possible remains, which were sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for analysis.
To identify Vienneau’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
Vienneau’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Impruneta, Italy, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Vienneau will be buried in Oct. 9, 2021, in his hometown.
For family and funeral information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490.
DPAA is grateful to the Croatian divers who discovered the underwater crash site, as well as the Croatian Ministries of Veterans Affairs, Culture, and Defense, the Croatian Conservation Institute, the University of Zadar, and the team from Lund University whose divers operated at a depth of 72 meters during the recovery, for their steadfast partnership in this successful mission.
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 find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.
Vienneau’s personnel profile can be viewed at https://dpaa-mil.sites.crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt000000bHtzAEAS.