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Wis. man helps in return of WWII soldier's remains

  • Associated Press
  • May 25, 2014 - 4:10 PM

MADISON, Wis. — A Middleton filmmaker's efforts over the last two years helped solve some of the mystery surrounding what happened to a soldier killed in World War II and return the soldier's remains home.

Pfc. Lawrence Gordon, 28, from Canada, was a member of the U.S. Army's 32nd Armored Regiment when the armored car he was riding in exploded during fighting in Normandy, France, on Aug. 13, 1944.

Staff Sgt. David Henry of Viroqua was wounded during the Normandy campaign, but he made it home.

Henry's grandson Jed Henry was researching his grandfather's Army reconnaissance company for a documentary when he stumbled across Gordon's case, the Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1jNCfGe ) in a story published Sunday. Gordon was the only member of the unit who was killed in action who never got a proper burial.

Henry's detective work led him to conclude that Gordon's remains had been misplaced in a cemetery for German soldiers in France. But the U.S. military repeatedly refused to perform DNA tests. And when the French government did the tests and identified the remains as Gordon's, the military refused to accept the results.

But after the University of Wisconsin-Madison and another laboratory also confirmed that the remains were Gordon's, an office of the Pentagon announced in March that Gordon should be buried with full military honors.

The soldier's nephew, Lawrence R. Gordon, told the newspaper he has ordered a granite, cross-shaped headstone for his uncle's burial in Eastend, Saskatchewan, where he was born, with another stone that will describe the soldier's journey.

"At one time I talked about some other wording, but Jed thought I was being a little harsh," he said. "It would have been: "Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon. Left behind by the U.S. Army, but not his friends and family."

In March, it was announced that the Department of Defense Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command and the Defense POW-MIA Office would be reorganized after complaints about their performance in the recovery and identification of war dead.

Henry said the news didn't surprise him.

"It highlights the other 83,000 who are missing and won't get help and won't have the luxury of the French government helping them out," Henry said. "We all feel that if you go and you fight and you die, you ought to be able to go home."

Last week, hundreds of veterans mounted motorcycles and headed for Washington, D.C., dedicating their 26th annual Run for the Wall rally to Gordon.

Henry and members of Gordon's family plan to travel to France next month to take custody of the remains. Burial is scheduled for Aug. 13, the 70th anniversary of the soldier's death.

© 2014 Star Tribune