DPAA In The News

News 2 | June 14, 2022

77 years later: U.S. military identifies Ashland County soldier who died in World War II (via the Ashland Times-Gazette)

By Bryce Buyakie, Ashland Times-Gazette

The remains of a 26-year-old U.S. Army soldier from Ashland County have been identified nearly eight decades after he died fighting in France during World War II.

The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency announced in a news release Monday the body of Pfc. Sanford Keith Bowen was identified in March after months of research, testing and DNA analysis via the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System.

The press release was delayed from March until his family was fully briefed, the agency said.

Life and career before 1945
Bowen grew up in Ashland County having graduated from Ashland High School in 1937, according to a Times-Gazette article from June 20, 1945.

After high school, he attended Ohio University before being inducted into the Army on June 3, 1942.

He was married to Virginia Page Bowen and the couple had a son in 1944 named Sanford Reed Bowen.

Once inducted, Keith Bowen trained at Camp Perry on Lake Erie in Ohio and later moved to Camp McCain in Mississippi and Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

Bowen took part in the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943, the article stated.

Surrounded in France during WWII
Bowen was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in January 1945 as a radio operator, according to his personnel file.

At the time, his unit was fighting Nazi German armed forces in eastern France near Reipertswiller, which sits around 27 miles from the modern German border.

There, German units surrounded Company I and four other companies, pounding them with mortar and artillery fire, the release states.

Th 45th Division, which included those five companies, was isolated for six days without food or medicine, according to the Times-Gazette article.

On Jan. 20, the five companies were ordered to attempt a breakout, but only two Company I soldiers successfully passed through German lines.

The remaining troops were either killed or captured, according to the DPAA. Bowen was among those killed. His body could not be recovered due to the ongoing fighting.

A letter from Bowen's friend in Company I said the two were in the same foxhole when Bowen was "killed instantly by shellfire," according to the 1945 Times-Gazette story.

His friend was taken prisoner that day.

Recovering Bowen and 36 others
Two years after Bowen died, the American Graves Registration Command, an organization that searched for and recovered the bodies of American personnel in Europe after the war, searched the area around Reipertswiller.

They found 37 unidentified bodies and were unable to identify Bowen, the DPAA said. His body was declared non-recoverable in 1951.

Bowen's remains were disinterred from the Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold, France, and taken for testing.

The front page of the Ashland Times-Gazette on Feb. 8, 1945, carried the news of Pfc. Keith Bowen being missing in action.

His name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Epinal American Cemetery in Dinozé, France, with others listed as missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name indicating he is now accounted for.

Bowen's remains will be buried in Richland County's Shiloh on July 22.

To read this article at its original source, click here.