MIA American Hero Forgotten During WWII is Now Returning to be Buried on American Soil

Lawrence Gordon, Private First Class in WWII, was forgotten for over fifty years after being buried near the site of his death in Normandy. Now, the young hero may witness a return to American soil after European officials have identified his remains following a thorough exhumation of his body.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time America has forgotten her heroes from wars past. Nearly 10,000 soldiers lie in various American cemeteries, their identities wholly unknown. Even JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command), whose job it is to identify such soldiers, has let slip on several bodies from WWII, as well as more recent conflicts such as the Vietnam War. It is estimated that they only follow through on a rough 4% of the cases they receive.

JPAC has defended their position on the forgotten hero by pointing out the exhaustive research that would have to be done to find Gordon’s resting place, although the exhumation of his remains was done following research by Gordon’s family as well as other civilians. The Pentagon is now under review to discuss its methods for such identifications. It stands as a somewhat ironic detail in this particular case that Gordon’s body might never have been examined if not for its placement in a German, rather than American, burial ground.

While there is some credence in JPAC’s decision, mostly in that Gordon was not an American citizen (he was Canadian), this does not lower any eyebrows currently raised at the command, which has only disinterred one set of remains from WWII in the past two years. Nonetheless, identification of Gordon’s body did not prove as difficult as JPAC expected. They needed only one molar to relate the body to Gordon’s nephew, The Daily Beast reports.

The Brigadier General of the German Defense Attaché, Dirk Backen, praised Gordon’s relatives for their persistence in having the forgotten hero’s location uncovered. He sent Gordon’s nephew a candid and heartfelt letter, which also served as something of an apology for German’s part in WWII. Backen said that while it was his own nation’s men that caused Gordon’s death, he was still able to see the justice in Gordon’s sacrifice. Backen’s letter stated that Gordon fought for Europe’s liberation, as well as for the restoration of “peace, freedom humanity.”

Gordon’s surviving family will be escorted by French, German, and Canadian military reps in June to receive Gordon’s remains. Following the ceremonial handing over of Gordon’s body, the no-longer-forgotten hero will have identification confirmation tests done in Wisconsin. He will then be buried on the 70th anniversary of his fall. Gordon’s family is not on the edge of their seat with anticipation that the American military’s current claim to offer honors for Gordon’s service will actually come to fruition. They have waited long already, and simply knowing of Gordon’s WWII service is honor enough. They have waited long already, and they simply hope that less troops will be forgotten in the future.


Ian Harvey

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