The remains of a young WWII soldier have finally been identified nearly 80 years after he died in action.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced on Wed, Nov. 22, that U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Gene F. Walker, who died at 27 years old, “was accounted for” in July 2023.
Walker is thought to have been killed “instantaneously” after being hit by an 88-mm anti-tank round while he was commanding an M4 Sherman tank in Hücheln, Germany, in November 1944, according to officials.
“The surviving crew bailed out of the tank,” wrote the agency. “But when they regrouped later, [they] were unable to remove Lt. Walker from the tank due to heavy fighting. The War Department issued a presumptive finding of death in April 1945.”
The U.S. government began efforts to locate Lt. Walker in September 1948 but failed. And because “there were no reports of deceased American servicemembers in the area,” the case went cold.
However, his remains were, in fact, recovered from a burned-out tank in December 1944 and buried in the Henri-Chapelle U.S. Military Cemetery in Hombourg, Belgium. A historian with DPAA located them while researching “unresolved American losses” in Hücheln. Thanks to the historian, the then-unidentified Walker was exhumed in 2021 and sent to DPAA.
“To identify Walker’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence,” the agency continued. “Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).”
The WWII Soldier Will Receive a Proper Burial in 2024
Lt. Walker’s name is listed on the Walls of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery, along with many other service members who went unaccounted for. Officials will place a rosette next to his engravement to signify that he’s been found. The WWII soldier has been sent back to the United States, and he will have a proper burial in San Diego, CA, early next year.
“DPAA is grateful to the American Battle Monuments Commission and to the U.S. Army Regional Mortuary-Europe/Africa for their partnership in this mission,” added the agency.
According to WTHR, a 1944 obituary revealed that the Richmond, IN, native was survived by a wife and a daughter. Lt. Walker never had the chance to meet his daughter, and it is unclear if either of the family members are alive today.
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