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U.S. identifies remains of WWII soldier who vanished in 1944

Authorities have identified the remains of a World War II tank crewmember from Tennesse who was killed when his M4 Sherman tank was hit by an 88-mm round during a battle near Gey, Germany, in December 1944, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in a news release.

Scientists used anthropological analysis, DNA analysis and circumstantial evidence to determine the remains exhumed from Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium were those of 23-year-old Joe A. Vinyard, officials said. 

Remains of tanker Joe Vinyard were identified more than 70 years after he went missing.  DPAA

The agency said Vinyard was fighting with the 774th Tank Battalion when Germans attacked his unit. Crewmembers fled the tank but after regrouping Vinyard was missing. One crewmember reported seeing Vinyard leave the tank, but he still wasn't found several days later. No remains were found within the burnt-out tank, the agency said. Germans, however, never reported Vinyard as a prisoner of war. Finally, in April 1946 the War Department issued a "presumptive finding of death." 

In December 1950, Vinyard was declared "non recoverable" after the American Graves Registration Command, the agency tasked with locating missing Americans in Europe, determined that remains found within two destroyed tanks in Gey could not be identified.

Years later, a DPAA historian studying unresolved American losses in the Hürtgen area discovered that one of the remains could have been Vinyard's, the agency said. The remains were sent to Nebraska for analysis and scientists were able to determine a match. 

Vinyard will be buried in Maryville, Tennessee, the agency said.

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency works to recover the remains of missing soldiers. The agency has accounted for 1,474 missing WWII soldiers since beginning its work in 1973. Government figures show that more than 72,000 WWII soldiers are still missing.

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