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. Willard Jenkins, 27, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, accounted for on July 3, will be buried September 26 in his hometown. In September 1944, Jenkins was a member of Company C, 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion (307th AEB), 82nd Airborne Division near Nijmegen, Netherlands. On Sept. 20, 1944, while participating in Operation Market Garden, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) was ordered to cross the Waal River to make an amphibious attack on the bridges. Using borrowed British assault boats, members of the PIR crowded into boats with members of Jenkins’ battalion. According to historical reports, Jenkins operated the rudder of one of the boats, and was wounded in the chest by fire, before falling overboard. Because the area downstream of the river was controlled by enemy forces, a search could not be conducted. Jenkins was declared missing in action on Sept. 20, 1944.
Following the end of hostilities, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, was charged with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel interred in temporary American cemeteries in the European Theater of Operations during and after World War II. Jenkins’ remains were not found in any Allied cemeteries, nor in any towns bordering the Waal River, where Jenkins was lost. On Aug. 15, 1950, Jenkins was declared non-recoverable.
According to historical records, on Sept. 19, 1944, two residents of Werkendam, Netherlands were in a rowboat on the Waal River when they saw a body in the river. German soldiers stationed nearby took possession of the remains and buried them on the riverbank.
In late August 1948, an investigator from the AGRC visited the Werkendam area and inquired about the remains. The AGRC learned that a person of the Information Bureau for missing English flyers had been to Werkendam to examine the remains and determined them to be of American nationality, and had them moved to Werkendam General Cemetery. The remains were disinterred on Sept. 17, 1948 and sent to the Identification Section at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, for further analysis. The remains could not be identified and were buried as Unknown X-7838 Neuville on Oct. 1, 1948.
After thorough research and historical analysis, historians from DPAA determined that Jenkins was a strong candidate for association to the remains. On April 18, 2018, X-7838 Neuville was disinterred and sent to DPAA.
To identify Jenkins’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the American Battle Monuments Commission and the government of the Netherlands, as well as Mr. Frank Van Lunteren and Maj. Moffitt Burriss (Ret.) for their partnership and assistance 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 72,818 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Jenkins’ name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margraten, Netherlands, along with the other MIAs from WWII. Although interred as an "unknown", his 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.