World War II airman from Detroit accounted for

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Posted at 4:53 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 16:53:50-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A World War II airman from Detroit has been accounted for. He was 19-year-old U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant Adolph “Leonard” Olenik.

Olenik was assigned to the 345th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy), and 9th Air Force during the summer of 1943. On August 1, 1943, Operation Tidal Wave was the largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania. Olenik was serving as a gunner on a B-24 Liberator aircraft. During the mission, the aircraft crashed as a result of enemy anti-aircraft fire. His remains could not be identified after the war.

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The "Kate Smith"

In 2017, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) began exhuming the remains of unknowns that were believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen from Operation Tidal Wave. The remains were then sent to the DPAA Laboratory at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for examination and identification. Scientists used dental, anthropological, and chest radiograph analysis to identify Olenik’s remains. Scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial, Y chromosome, and autosomal DNA to identify him.

Olenik’s name is on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American cemetery in Impruneta, Italy with other names of those who are still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed by his name to show that he has now been accounted for.

Olenik will now be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

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