The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, unaccounted for since World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pfc. Reece Gass, 20, of Greeneville, Tennessee, will be buried June 10 in his hometown. On Jan. 14, 1945, Gass was a member of Company E, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division, moving from the Lomre area toward Cherain, Belgium, in a three-pronged advance against enemy forces. As fighting drove them back, five tanks from the regiment were lost, including at least two from Gass’ company. Gass was killed in action when his tank was hit by enemy fire.
In June 1947, a U.S. War Department investigator attached to the 4527th Quartermaster Service Company recovered a set of possible human remains from the remnants of a tank at Mont-le-Ban, near Cherain, Belgium. The remains were designated as Unknown X-5867 Neuville. Multiple attempts were made to identify the remains, however all attempts were unsuccessful. The remains were eventually interred in the U.S. Military Cemetery Hamm, Luxembourg (now Luxembourg American Cemetery) in March 1952 under a headstone that read “Here Rests in Honored Glory a Comrade in Arms Known but to God.”
When DPAA established its disinterment program in 2015, historians located sufficient evidence to link the remains to one of three unaccounted-for service members, including Gass. Combined with the potential to use DNA to effect identification, DPAA’s research and analysis met the established DoD threshold for disinterment. DPAA disinterred the remains of X-5867 on May 11, 2016 and sent them to the DPAA laboratory for identification.
To identify Gass’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) which matched a niece; anthropological analysis, which matched Gass’ records; and historical evidence.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 73,057 service members still unaccounted for from World War II. Gass’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an ABMC site along with the other MIAs from WWII. 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.