John J. Sitarz was a United State Soldier who was killed in the Hürtgen Forest on November 2, 1944. His remains were discovered in 1946 and identified on May 27, 2020.

Background

John Sitarz was born in 1925 in Hancock County, West Virginia. At some point, he joined the United States Army and was assigned a Private, First Class, Company L, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division.

Disappearance

The 28th Infantry Division took part in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. Between September 19 to December 16, 1944, American and German forces fought in a series of fierce battles in and around the Hürtgen Forest of Germany. On November 2, 1944, Sitarz landed stepped on a landmine while his unit were fighting German forces near Germeter, Germany. His fellow brother-in-arms were unable to reach him and he was reported Missing in Action after the battle.

The Battle of Hürtgen Forest became a defensive victory for Germany, with 33,000 to 55,000 casualties on the American side and 28,000 casualties on the German side. It was the longest battle on German ground during World War II and is the longest single battle the US Army has fought.

Aftermath

On November 3, 1945, Sitarz's status was changed to Killed in Action. After the war's end, the American Graves Registration Service was tasked to identify unknown soldier's remains from the European Theatre. However, they were unable to locate and identify Sitarz's remains. In 1951, the AGRS ruled him unrecoverable. After his death, he was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star and was memorialized at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium.

In 1946, the skeletal remains of a United States soldier, with multiple gunshot wounds to the head, was discovered from a minefield near Germeter. They were identified only as "X-2785 Neuville" and buried in Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupré, Belgium in 1949.

Identification

In 2018, a historian for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency noticed similarities between Sitarz and "X-2785 Neuville." Later that year, "X-2785 Neuville" was exhumed and transported to the DPAA laboratory at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for identification. At the lab, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis and DPAA scientists used dental and anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence.

Through these methods, the remains were identified as John J. Sitarz on May 27, 2020. His identification was announced on May 29, 2020 and again on June 7, 2021. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia at a date to be determined.

Sources

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