Soldier Missing in Action for 72 Years to Return Home

A 97-year-old man in Minnesota who waited 72 years for his younger brother to return home from World War II may finally get his wish before Memorial Day.

John Sersha’s family knew that he was missing in action and nothing else. Sersha was part of the Allied invasion of Europe and he fought from Normandy into the Low Countries. The Germans put up a desperate resistance and the fighting was often very heavy.

The exact details of his death are unknown, but this often happens in the midst of battle. There was no reliable information even on his whereabouts. It seems that Sersha would join the sad list of those who were declared to be MIA (Missing in Action).  The army  thought he might have been buried in the forest where he fought the Nazis and presumably died. Three years ago, Paul Sersha was told that his brother might be interred in a cemetery in Belgium.

The original information that they had received was incorrect and this meant that it seemed that John Sersha remains had been identified decades ago, but he had been mistakenly assigned as an MIA. Similar mistakes are known to occur in what many call the ‘fog of war’.

Danny Keay, an independent MIA researcher, made the discovery and notified the Sersha family. They asked the Department of Defense in the U.S. to investigate.

“The height, the size, the location of the loss, they were a match,” Keay said.

Congressman Rick Nolan put pressure on the Pentagon to have the remains exhumed. In January of 2016, the grave was disinterred and a military forensics lab in Nebraska identified the remains as being John’s.

“I’m very glad that he’s coming home,” Paul said. “I wish my mother could see this.”

Paul never stopped hoping that his brother would return before he passed away himself. His wife, Julie, says that the news is overwhelming for him. “All these years I’ve never seen him cry,” Julie said. “And that’s how the emotion, the emotions took over. Yeah, he just couldn’t get over it.”

A war memorial in Virginia, Minnesota, has a stone paver with John’s name on it. Until now, that has been the only local tribute to the man who died serving his country.

The family is planning a funeral with full military honors for John. He will be laid next to his parents on Memorial Day.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE