The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today
that the remains of three servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified
and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
Army Pfc. Lawrence N. Harris, of Elkins, W.V., Cpl. Judge C. Hellums, of Paris, Miss.,
and Pvt. Donald D. Owens, of Cleveland, will be buried as a group, in a single casket, on July 20
in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. In late September 1944, their unit, the 773rd
Tank Battalion, was fighting its way east to France’s eastern border, clearing German forces out
of the Parroy Forest near Lunéville. For its combat service, the 773rd received the Presidential
Unit Citation as the battalion had destroyed 125 enemy tanks by war’s end. On Oct. 9, 1944, in
the final battle for control of the region, Hellums, Harris, Owens and two other soldiers were
attacked by enemy fire in their M-10 Tank Destroyer. Two men survived with serious injuries
but Harris, Hellums and Owens were reported to have been killed. Evidence at the time indicated
the remains of the men had been destroyed in the attack and were neither recovered nor buried
near the location.
In November 1946, a French soldier working in the Parroy Forest found debris associated
with an M-10 vehicle and human remains, which were turned over to the American Graves
Registration Command. The remains were buried as unknowns in what is now known as the
Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium. A year later the AGRC returned to the Parroy Forest
to conduct interviews and search for additional remains. Investigators noted at that time that all
remains of U.S. soldiers had reportedly been removed in the last two years and that the crew was
likely buried elsewhere as unknowns.
In 2003, a French citizen exploring the Parroy Forest discovered human remains and an
identification bracelet engraved with Hellums’ name, from a site he had probed occasionally since
1998. The information was eventually sent to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
(JPAC). In April 2006, the man turned over the items to a JPAC team working in Europe. A few
months later a second JPAC team returned to the site and recovered more human remains,
personal effects and an identification tag for Owens.
Historians at DPMO and JPAC continued their research on the burials at the Ardennes
Cemetery, and drew a correlation to those unknowns removed from the 1944 battle site. In early
2008 JPAC disinterred these remains and began their forensic review.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from
JPAC used dental comparisons for the men and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory
used mitochondrial DNA, which matched that of each soldier’s relatives in the identification of
More than 400,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II died. At the end
of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover, identify and bury approximately 79,000
Americans. Today, more than 72,000 remain unaccounted-for from the conflict.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing
Americans, call 571-422-9059 or visit the DPMO Web site at www.dtic.mil/dpmo.