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 Staff Sgt. Leo J. Husak, 21, of West, Texas, accounted for on February 12, will be buried June 23 in his hometown. In January 1945, Husak was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 309th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry Division, serving in the European theater. Husak was killed during a combat patrol on Jan. 30, 1945 in Germany’s Hürtgen Forest. The offensive in the forest was one of the longest battles the United States fought during World War II, lasting for nearly five months.
Due to the ongoing fighting, Husak’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-1043 Margraten, had been recovered from an area in the Hürtgen Forest where Husak was believed to have been killed. The AGRC was unable to identify the remains and buried them at Margraten in June 1945 as an unknown.
In March 1947, personnel from the AGRC reprocessed the remains but were unable to associate the remains with any American service members. They were again reinterred in Margraten in July 1949.
In October 2016, DPAA researchers made a historical association between X-1043 Margraten and Husak, based on the recovery site of the remains and where he was killed. On June 13, 2017, the remains were disinterred and repatriated to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
To identify Husak’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 circumstantial evidence.
DPAA is grateful to 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. Husak’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing, the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Hombourg, Belgium. Although interred as an "unknown,” Husak’s grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission. 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.