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Larry S. Wassil
Larry S. Wassil (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

(Tribune News Service) — The remains of a U.S. Army sergeant from New Jersey presumed to have been killed in Germany during World War II have been identified more than 76 years after he went missing, military officials said Tuesday.

Larry S. Wassil, of Bloomfield, was leading a three-man reconnaissance team scouting enemy positions near Bergstein in late 1944 when he disappeared, the U.S. Department of Defense said. Wassil and the two other soldiers scattered when Axis forces began firing on them.

While the two other men found each other, Wassil, 33, never returned and was declared missing on Dec. 28, 1944. The War Department issued a presumptive finding of death on Dec. 29, 1945.

In December 1951, the American Graves Registration Command — tasked with investigating and trying to recover missing American personnel in Europe at the conclusion of the war — declared Wassil non-recoverable. They had conducted several investigations in the Hürtgen area between 1946 and 1950, but were unable to recover or identify Wassil’s remains.

Decades later, a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency historian determined that one set of unidentified remains — designated X-9118 Griesheim Mausoleum — possibly belonged to Wassil. The remains had been found by German wood cutters near Bergstein and recovered by the AGRC in 1952.

The remains, which had been buried in Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium, were disinterred in April 2019 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., to be examined in the hopes of identifying them.

Scientists used DNA, dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence to conclude the remains were Wassil in July, the Department of Defense said.

Wassil was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division.

Wassil’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margraten, Netherlands, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on a date yet to be determined.

jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com

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