TechAfter 80 years, a missing soldier has finally been found

After 80 years, a missing soldier has finally been found

Lieutenant Gene F. Walker
Lieutenant Gene F. Walker
Images source: © DPAA, Wikimedia Commons
ed. NGA

6:32 PM EST, November 29, 2023

A soldier presumed missing since 1944 has been identified by The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The man took part in battles in Germany as the commander of a M4 Sherman tank, according to the BBC.

Lieutenant Gene F Walker served during World War II, chiefly near the Belgium border, where he led a M4 Sherman tank (manufactured between 1942 and 1945 with almost 50,000 units produced). In the fights during November 1944, the lieutenant's tank, then 27, was struck by an anti-tank shell.

The assault on the American tank ignited a fire from which all crew members escaped, aside from Walker who was left inside. It is assumed that the soldier died on the spot, states the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Since then, the identification of Walker's remains proved impossible.

He went unfound for almost 80 years

A similar discovery was made recently by people from the Cranfield University in America, who unearthed the remains of a B-25 bomber pilot in Sicily thought missing since 1943. This time, the specialists were able to identify the American tank commander. But how was this performed?

The newest technology in anthropology and DNA recognition played a significant role in identifying the lieutenant's remains. Historians from the American agency spotted traces of the soldier's remains in Belgium - in one of the cemeteries (Henri-Chapelle), a man extracted from a charred American tank was interred. This triggered in-depth analysis.

Scientists opted to inspect the body. Following this, an anthropological examination was undertaken, using, among other things, mitochondrial DNA (mDNA). This form of genetic material is typically used in genetics, forensics, and genealogy. In this situation, the hyper-variable regions of mDNA, which are parts of the genome with a high variability in humans, were employed.

The DPAA indicates that tens of thousands of remains of American soldiers presumed missing, still exist around the globe. Thus, the agency is pursuing more regions to identify these bodies.

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