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. John H. Walker, 20, of Morning Sun, Iowa, accounted for on April 11, will be buried June 20 in his hometown. On Nov. 24, 1944, Walker was a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, when he was reported missing in action after his unit engaged in fierce fighting on Hill 207 near Schönthal, Germany in the Hürtgen Forest. With no evidence that Walker had been captured or survived combat, his status was changed to deceased on Nov. 25, 1945.
After the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) collected thousands of unknown sets of remains from battlefields in Germany, and labeled each set with an X-number.
In November 1948, German resident Mr. Bernhard Kueppers found remains in the woods at the northern edge of the Hürtgen Forest near Langerwehe, Germany, and notified AGRC personnel, who recovered them the following month. The remains were processed at the Central Identification Point in Neuville Belgium, and designated X-7980 Neuville. In September 1949, the remains were declared unidentifiable and were interred at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville, France.
In April 1949, with no association between Walker and X-7980 Neuville, an AGRC investigator traveled to Schönthal to investigate the loss of Walker, however no remains could be located. On Dec. 15, 1950, having received no further evidence that could lead to the recovery of Walker, he was declared non-recoverable.
In 2016, a historian from DPAA conducted a study of unresolved American losses in the northern part of the Hürtgen Forest. Careful analysis of AGRC records and unit combat reports indicated a strong association between X-7980 and Walker.
Based off of that research, and a thorough scientific review of the biological and dental records, the DPAA and the American Battle Monuments Commission exhumed X-7980 in June 2017 and transferred the remains to DPAA.
To identify Walker’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome (Y-STR) DNA analysis, as well as dental and anthropological analysis.
DPAA is grateful to Mr. Kueppers and the American Battle Monuments Commission for their partnership with this disinterment and recovery.
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. Walker’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission in Margraten, along with the others missing from WWII. Although interred as an Unknown in Neuville American Cemetery, Walker’s grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the ABMC. 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.