The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, recently accounted-for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pvt. Shirley E. Bailey, 19, of Charleston, West Virginia, will be buried Dec. 1 in Dunbar, West Virginia. His loss took place in the Hürtgen Forest of Germany in 1944. Fighting in the forest, an area comprising of roughly 50-square miles along the Belgian-German border, lasted from September 1944 to February 1945. Bailey, who was a medic with Company G, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, participated in his unit’s efforts to seize northern parts of the Hürtgen Forest. Bailey provided medical support to dozens of casualties during the battle. On November 29, 1944, when Bailey’s battalion was moving out, a German counterattack struck his company. Bailey rushed forward to aid a wounded man and was himself killed by enemy fire.
Due to the ongoing fighting, Bailey’s remains were not recovered by members of his unit during the battle. After the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) collected hundreds of unknown sets of remains from battlefields in Germany, and labeled each set with an X-number. One set of remains, designated X-4734 Neuville, had been recovered from an isolated grave near Schlich, Germany, in December 1946. Medical technicians were unable to identify them in the 1940s and the remains were buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, as an unknown soldier.
In October 2016, DPAA researchers made a historical association between X-4734 Neuville and Bailey, based on the recovery site of the remains and his location of loss. On June 26, 2017, X-4734 was disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska.
To identify Bailey’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the American Battle Monuments Commission for their partnership in this recovery.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,975 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Bailey’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in the Netherlands. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
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, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420.