The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, accounted-for from World War II, were returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pvt. John B. Cummings, 22, of Hartford, Wisconsin, accounted for on July 12, 2018, was buried October 13 in Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. In December 1944, Cummings was a member of Company A, 276th Infantry Regiment, 70th Infantry Division, along the France and Germany border to reinforce the Alsace area. On Dec. 31, 1944, German troops crossed the Rhine River into France. As darkness fell, two member of Cummings’ company passed him as he sat in a foxhole near the riverbank. Sometime later, U.S. troops heard German machine gun fire and maneuvered their way back to Cummings’ foxhole. The troops were unable to find Cummings, but they did find a helmet with a bullet hole. Despite extensive recovery efforts, Cummings’ remains were unable to be located.
Following the close of hostilities, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) searched for and disinterred the remains of U.S. service members who were killed in battle. In 1946, investigators met with the mayor of Iffezheim, Germany, who informed them that the remains of an American Soldier were buried in his community near the bank of the Rhine River. The mayor directed the American investigator to a local German veteran who had been present at the burial. A wooden cross indicated the remains belonged to an American serviceman, who died on Dec. 31, 1944. The remains were disinterred and transferred to the American Military Cemetery and identification processing center at St. Avold France, where they were labeled as Unknown X-6454.
The remains, unable to be identified, were interred in the American cemetery at St. Avold, present day Lorraine American Cemetery, in France.
Following thorough research and analysis of American Soldiers missing from Europe, DPAA historians concluded that there was a strong association between Unknown X-6454 and Cummings. DPAA disinterred X-6454 in October 2016 and accessioned the remains to the DPAA laboratory.
To identify Cummings’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and autosomal (auSTR) DNA analysis, anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the French Government and the American Battle Monuments Commission for their partnership in this recovery.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,796 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Cummings’ name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Epinal American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Dinoze, France, along with the others missing from WWII. Although interred as an Unknown in Lorraine American Cemetery, Cummings’ 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.