Wrightstown, NJ –
Pvt. Stephen C. Mason and four other Soldiers left on a mission to the enemy lines near Beek, Netherlands, Nov. 3, 1944.
They were charged with gathering information on German fortifications and, if possible, capture an enemy soldier for interrogation.
Mason was assigned to Headquarters Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Infantry Division, which had served in Operation Market Garden – the invasion of the German-occupied Netherlands – and saw continued action in the Netherlands until mid-November.
Two days later, two Soldiers returned from the patrol.
One of the survivors, Staff Sgt. Russell O’Neal, reported that Mason was killed while trying to destroy an enemy machine-gun position. Because he was killed in German-held territory, his fellow Soldiers could not retrieve his body.
American forces never captured the area and Mason was listed missing in action. At the time, his body was not recovered.
The Jersey City resident was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
At the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Mason’s name is among the 1,722 missing Army and Army Air Force personnel engraved on the walls flanking the reflecting pool of the Court of Honor.
While Karol Krychkowski was growing up, her grandmother told her stories of “Uncle Steve”.
“He was my mother’s brother,” said Krychkowski – Mason’s sole living direct descendant. “He left home at 19 to go into the service.”
More than 81,600 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Merchant Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Civilians – of which 2,333 are from the Garden State – remain missing in action from World War II..
Following the war, the American Graves Registration Command, the organization that searched for and recovered fallen American personnel, conducted several searches of the area, but by 1950, none of the remains found around Beek could be identified as Mason. He was declared non-recoverable in January 1951.
In 2015, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) historians began working on a project focused on those missing from Operation Market Garden.
During that work, they analyzed information about X-3323 Neuville, an unknown set of remains recovered from the Beek area in 1946 and buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery in the United Kingdom. Following an analysis by DPAA historians, forensic anthropologists, and odontologists, it was determined that the X-3323 remains could be Mason. The remains were disinterred in April 2017 and sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., for examination and identification.
Two years ago, Krychkowski received a letter requesting her DNA. At that time, she declined.
In December 2020, she changed her mind.\
“At some point I realized that if I did this, it would be for my grandmother. So, I said ‘Send me the kit.’”
To identify Mason’s remains, DPAA scientists used dental and anthropological analysis as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis.
On July 9, the DPAA had an answer.
“I got a telephone call saying they had matched my DNA with my uncle’s, which was extremely overwhelming,” said Krychkowski.
During a Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Service held at the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Wrightstown, N.J., Oct. 2, 2021, Krychkowski received the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and the New Jersey POW-MIA Medal in honor of her uncle.
Mason will be buried in North Arlington, N.J. The burial will take place Nov. 3 – 77 years to the day he died.
“He’ll be laid to rest with his mother, father and grandfather,” said Krychkowski.
And at the Netherlands American Cemetery, a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
“I am very happy that I am able to bring him home.”
People who may have information about a family member lost in Operation Market Garden or wish to provide a DNA sample, please contact the Army Service Casualty Office at 1 (800) 892-2490 or visit DPAA at www.dpaa.mil and view the Family Member Guide for more information.