Investigations Continue: WWII’s Lawrence S. Gordon mystery is yet to be solved

L. S. Gordon

U.S. Army Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon grew up in Saskatchew and later on went to work in Wyoming. Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, deciding that the the Canadian Scottish Regiment wasn’t as good.

He sent his last letter home aged 28, just before he died, while he was fighting at Saint Lo, north of Normandy.

On Aug. 13, 1944, Gordon was in command of an armored vehicle during an operation to stop the Germans from escaping through the Falaise Gap. It is believed that Gordon and James Andrew Bowman, a gunner who was standing next to him in the turret, were shot at by a German Motorcyclist.

The driver of the vehicle died two weeks later. The only survivor was Pvt. Kurtz, who wrote a report on that day, aged 85. Kurtz died in January 2011.

Filmmaker Jed Henry became interested in Gordon’s story while shooting a documentary about his grandfather, Staff Sgt. David L. Henry of Viroqua, in November 2011. His grandfather, just like Gordon, was part of the 199-man Reconnaissance Company, and died at home when Henry was only 3 years old. He is now working together with a team of researchers at UW-Madison Biotechnology Center’s DNA Sequencing Facility to find out whether or not the person they buried as a German soldier more that 68 years ago, is U.S. Army Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon. Gordon’s body was in first instance labeled as Unknown X-3 and found buried next to another soldier tagged Unknown X-2, on Aug. 13, 1944, the Journal Sentinel reports.

There was a teeth scan done on X-3, but no fingerprints taken. While The X-2 was later identified by the FBI as  U.S. Army Pvt. James Andrew Bowman, the man who was shot at together with Gordon, the X-3 was found “completely clothed in German equipment”. The explanation following the discovery states that it might have been possible that Gordon exchanged his American undershirt and trousers with the German ones because they were cooler than the U.S. Army uniform. That, however, doesn’t mean the outer layer of clothing was part of the German uniform as well, as that would have got him in quite some trouble if captured.

Gordon’s mother was first announced of her son’s death, almost 8 months later, with no information on where his grave is located. She desperately tried to find out where her son was put sleep and she died without ever knowing. Nobody in the family knew for sure that Gordon’s body was missing, until his nephew – Lawrence R. Gordon, a lawyer in Medicine Hat, Alberta, went searching for his grave in France, 2000.

He promised his father that he would find his uncle’s final resting place but instead he found his name written on the wall, among other missing in action servicemen, at Brittany American Cemetery near St. James, Normandy. Once the teeth charts were compared, the forensic investigator decided that according to the reports in which is stated that the wisdom teeth and the third tooth on the right side were missing, the two charts matched.

The DNA tests, done on the saliva collected from his eight nephews, are still to be revealed.

“I’m satisfied we found Uncle Lawrence,” said Gordon’s nephew, “we’re just playing it out to the end.”

If that really is Lawrence S. Gordon, his family wants him to be buried with Military honors on Aug. 13, 2014.

Ian Harvey

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