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US Identifies Remains of WW2 Tank Commander Killed in 1944

The US says it has identified the remains of a World War Two tank commander who was killed fighting in Germany in November 1944.

Lt Gene F Walker was battling Nazi forces near the German-Belgian border when his M4 Sherman was struck by an anti-tank round.

His crew escaped the blast, but were prevented from recovering his body by heavy fighting.

But almost 79 years later, US military researchers have identified the tanker.

Lt Walker, who hailed from the state of Indiana and was 27 when he died, had been fighting with the 3rd Armored Division at the time of his death. Under the command of Gen Omar Bradley, the division was helping to spearhead the incursion into the German heartland from Belgium.

The young tanker died as US forces pushed forward and was killed on impact after an anti-tank munition struck his vehicle near the town of Hücheln.

“The hit caused a fire and is believed to have killed Walker instantaneously,” the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), an organisation tasked with identifying missing war dead, said.

“The surviving crew bailed out of the tank, but when they regrouped later were unable to remove Walker from the tank due to heavy fighting,” it added.

In April 1945 the US War Department issued a presumptive finding of death for Lt Walker.

The young commander left behind a wife, Mary, and a baby daughter named Anne, who he never got to meet after joining the army in 1942, according to an obituary written at the time of his death.

After the war ended, the American Graves Registration Command was tasked with recovering missing US military personnel in Europe. Despite conducting investigations in the Hücheln area in 1948 – where they interviewed two locals – the agency found no reports of deceased US military members in the area.

It appears Lt Walker’s remains were actually removed from a burned-out tank in Hücheln in December 1944. He was then buried at the Henri-Chapelle US Military Cemetery in Hombourg, Belgium.

His name was recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery.

But in 2021 his remains were exhumed and sent to a DPAA lab for analysis after a researcher found evidence that they may have belonged to Lt Walker.

“To identify Walker’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA),” the agency said.

The former tank commander will be reburied in San Diego in early 2024. A rosette will be placed next to his name at the Wall of the Missing in the Netherlands to indicate he has been found.

Since its formation in 1973, the DPAA has accounted for some 1,543 missing US servicemen. But government figures indicate that more than 72,000 troops who fought in World War Two remain missing.

In November, researchers managed to identify the remains of 2nd Lt Gilbert Haldeen Myers, an US Army Air Force Pilot killed in 1943 when his bomber was shot down over Sicily.

Source : BBC