Allan Knepper was lost on a strike mission on the day the Allies invaded Sicily. The general location of his crash site was noted in the Missing Air Crew Report (see Research Documents MACR) and map in the Photo Gallery below.
Nearly 70 years after his plane was downed, a posting was made on BlogSicilia in the faint hope that it would reach someone who had direct knowledge of the incident.
In less than 24 hours, a response was received from a local Sicilian living in proximity to the estimated crash site. That man, Salvatore Fagone, had been in contact with an old farmer from the region who claimed to be an eyewitness to the crash.
Salvo Fagone has, over the past three years, become a local Sicilian expert on the use of metal detectors in searching for crash fields. His first search atop the proposed site was immediately successful, and many metallic components were located and photographed.
These photos were sent to the Defense POW/MIA Acccounting Agency (DPAA)- the federal agency responsible for the search and recovery of lost servicemen.
In February 2017, following other positive searches from Salvo and his team, DPAA undertook a 10 day search in Sicily, and reported in May that the site was quite like that of Knepper's crash. A full excavation is scheduled, though with 300 other sites on DPAA's "dig list", it will take some time.
Salvo and his team conducted several metal detector sweeps over multiple sites in the area of Palagonia, Sicily. The following Photo Gallery includes annotated images of his findings.
Following Salvatore Fagone's initial successes in locating WWII crash sites in the vicinity of Palagonia, Sicily, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) sent a field team to Sicily to further explore the feasibility of sites Salvatore and others had identified as potential crash sites. Following their field assessments in May, 2017, DPAA ranched one of Salvatore's sites as a strong candidate for Lt. Knepper's crash site, and scheduled a second, more detailed excavation and analysis.
Given the immense scope of DPAA's mission, and the expertise required to carefully conduct field investigations, much of the field work is done by university anthropology and archaeology programs under contract with DPAA.
For the site tentatively identified as Lt. Knepper's, the field investigations were conducted under contract by the University of Illinois at Chicago. The UofI was assisted in their excavations by a group of volunteers from the U.S. Naval Air Station at Sigonella, Sicily. Their November 15th newsletter, The Signature, included these photos of the actual excavation.
The full newsletter can be seen in the following pdf.
Results ? It has been confirmed that material found during the November excavations - either human remains or material evidence such as military uniforms, personal effects, or identification tags - have been submitted to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska for analysis.
Weeks or months remain for the analysis to be complete, and DPAA is being appropriately silent as to the status of the investigation, due to concerns for Lt. Knepper's remaining family members.
Further updates will be posted here as they come available.
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