Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DOD outflanked | Middleton man to bring "missing" WWII soldier's remains home

Journalist and filmaker
Jed Henry of Middleton,
Wisconsin, worked for
two years to force the
military to accept its errors.
Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon, KIA 8/13/44

Pfc. Gordon's charred wallet
 was returned to his family,
 but the military said
 it didn't know where
his remains were buried.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

A Middleton man has finally outflanked the U.S. military in his determined two-year campaign to bring home the remains of a World War II veteran who had served with his grandfather.

Along the way, Jed Henry enlisted the help of the Madison Police Department, UW-Madison’s DNA Sequencing Facility, members of the state’s congressional delegation and two Madison-based forensic scientists.

“The people of Wisconsin really got this done for the Gordon family,” said Henry, a freelance journalist and filmmaker.

Henry was researching his grandfather’s Army reconnaissance company for a documentary when he stumbled across the strange case of Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon — the only member of the unit who was killed in action but never got a proper burial.

After butting heads with the Department of Defense Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command and the Defense POW-MIA Office since 2012, Henry said, he wasn’t surprised by the announcement in March that the agencies would be reorganized because of complaints about their performance in the recovery and identification of war dead.

Temporary cemetery near Gorron, France, where
Pfc. Gordon's remains were buried first, on Aug. 15, 1944,
 as an unknown American soldier, then months later
reburied as an unknown German soldier.
“It highlights the other 83,000 who are missing and won’t get help and won’t have the luxury of the French government helping them out,” Henry said. “We all feel that if you go and you fight and you die, you ought to be able to go home.”

Cemetery for German soldiers where Pfc. Gordon's
remains were buried in 1961.
Working with Gordon family members and several military historians, Henry’s detective work led him to conclude that Gordon’s remains had been misplaced in a cemetery for German soldiers in France. The U.S. military repeatedly refused to perform DNA tests. And when the French government did the tests and identified the remains as Gordon’s, the military refused to accept the results.

In March, after Henry arranged for further testing at UW-Madison and
Pfc. Gordon's nephew in the funeral vault in France where his
uncles remains were exhumed on Sept. 13, 2013.
another laboratory, the Pentagon signaled that it would relent. He said the key was news coverage in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, along with pressure from Congress.

Last week, hundreds of veterans mounted motorcycles and headed for Washington, D.C., dedicating their 26th annual Run for the Wall rally to Gordon.

Henry and members of Gordon’s family plan to travel to France next month to take custody of the remains. They refused the military’s offer of military transport to the usual reception point for war dead, Dover Air Base in Delaware.

Read the full story here.