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DNA test is latest to confirm ID of American WWII soldier buried in Germany

MILWAUKEE — An American forensic lab announced Monday it has independently confirmed through DNA testing that the remains recovered from a German ossuary in France are indeed U.S. Army Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon, who was mistakenly buried with the enemy after World War II.

DNA was extracted from bones by the national crime lab in France after Wisconsin filmmaker Jed Henry's dogged research through military records led to a crypt of an unknown soldier identified as a German.

The French crime lab announced in February that it had a mitochondrial DNA match, meaning the results matched DNA from maternal relatives of Gordon's. Samples then were sent to a DNA testing facility at University of Wisconsin-Madison and to Bode Technology Group in Lorton, Va., for independent confirmation.

Bode not only confirmed the French crime lab's results on Monday, but announced that it did a more specific nuclear DNA profile for further proof of identification — all within eight days of receiving the DNA samples from France.

The DNA facility at University of Wisconsin-Madison will begin its testing this week. In addition to confirming the Virginia lab's results, the UW-Madison lab is working on refining techniques for recovering DNA from bones and teeth that are 70 years old and older.

Henry became interested in the Gordon case because his grandfather, Staff Sgt. David L. Henry of Viroqua, served in the same reconnaissance company, and Gordon was the only member of the company who died and was not identified for a proper burial.

The U.S. military accounting community refused to help confirm the remains in the German crypt were Gordon's, but French and German officials agreed to allow DNA to be extracted and tested in hopes of identifying the soldier.

U.S. military anthropologists and historians typically work for years on an unidentified soldier case. Exhuming remains for DNA analysis does not happen often. In this case, Gordon's remains were in a German cemetery in France and identified as those of a German. So the U.S. could not prevent the remains from being removed and tested.

Ed Huffine, Bode's vice president of international development, said the successful DNA testing on Gordon's case demonstrates how nuclear DNA testing can be incorporated in a large-scale, systematic DNA-led system of identifying service members, similar to how other large-scale identification projects are done in other nations.

Bode has assisted with testing thousands of missing persons cases, including the 1970s "Dirty War" in Argentina, mass graves in Guatemala and Peru, victims of Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes and air crashes.
 

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