The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, accounted-for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pfc. Oscar E. Sappington, 19, of Dawson, Oklahoma, accounted for on April 23, will be buried June 9 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In January 1945, Sappington was a member of 3rd Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 309th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry Division. On Jan 10, the 309th Infantry launched a number of attacks in the Hürtgen Forest of Germany. His company attempted to capture two hills near the Raffelsbrand sector of the forest. Enemy gunfire and artillery strikes forced the Americans to fall back. The following day, reinforcements led the attack on the hills, also sustaining heavy losses. At some point during the two days of fighting, Sappington was mortally wounded. Because no Soldiers from his unit could confirm his death, he was reported missing in action as of Jan. 11, 1945.
In 1947, a German woodcutter found a set of remains that were subsequently recovered by the American Graves Registration Command. Unable to identify the remains, they were buried as Unknown, and designated X-5396.
After the war, the American Graves Registration Command extensively investigated the Hürtgen Forest, but could find no evidence leading to the recovery of Sappington’s remains. Unable to make a correlation with remains found in 1947, he was declared non-recoverable on Dec. 10, 1951.
In 2016, a historian from DPAA conducted a study of combat records and unresolved American losses in the Raffelsbrand sector of the Hürtgen Forest. During this effort, the historian determined that the X-5396 remains had been recovered in the 309th Infantry combat zone and recommended that officials disinter the remains for scientific comparison to Pfc Sappington. Based off of that research, and a thorough scientific review of the biological and dental records, DPAA and the American Battle Monuments Commission exhumed X-5396 in June 2017 and transferred the remains to DPAA.
To identify Sappington’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, as well as anthropological, dental and chest radiograph comparison analysis, and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful the American Battle Monuments Commission for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,917 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Sappington’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Henri-Chappelle American Cemetery in Hombourg, Belgium, an American Battle Monuments Commission 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) 699-1420/1169.