Three World War II soldiers were finally laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday after almost seven decades missing in action.
The men were buried together in a single casket with full military honors. Their remains were only recently identified through the efforts of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).
Army Pfc. Lawrence N. Harris of Elkins, West Virginia., Cpl. Judge C. Hellums of Paris, Mississippi, and Pvt. Donald D. Owens of Cleveland were fighting with their unit, the 773rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, on October 9, 1944, during the final battle for control of the Parroy Forest in eastern France, according to the Department of Defense.
All three were killed when their M-10 tank destroyer came under enemy fire.
“Evidence at the time indicated the remains of the men had been destroyed in the attack and were neither recovered nor buried near the location," according to a Department of Defense press release.
Then, in November 1946, a French soldier discovered the M-10 debris and human remains while working in the forest. The American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) took control of the remains, which were buried as unknowns in what is now the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium.
Despite further searches for human remains on behalf of the AGRC, the Parroy Forest was thought to be void of human remains until 2003, when a French citizen exploring the area discovered Hellums’ identification bracelet and more human remains. A JPAC team working in Europe took control of the items in April 2006 and then returned to the site, recovering “more human remains, personal effects, and an identification tag for Owens,” according to the press release.