After 76 years, WWII soldier is found

BLOOMFIELD, NJ – A World War II U.S. Army sergeant from Bloomfield was identified 76 years after he went missing in Germany, according to a press release from the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency on Monday, Nov. 22. Larry Wassil was 33 years old when he was reported missing on Dec. 28, 1944, in Hurtgen, Germany, where his unit was part of the Hurtgen Forest offensive.

“He was leading a three-man reconnaissance team scouting enemy positions near Bergstein, when they started taking enemy machine gun fire, forcing them to scatter,” the press release said. “When the gunfire stopped, the other two men found each other but were unable to find Wassil. German forces never listed him as a prisoner of war. The War Department issued a presumptive finding of death on Dec. 29, 1945.”

According to the agency, Wassil was declared non-recoverable in December 1951, when the American Graves Registration Command was unable to locate him after the war ended. But a DPAA historian studying unresolved American losses in Germany determined that unidentified remains that were discovered by German woodcutters could have been those of Wassil.

“The remains, which had been buried in Ardennes American Cemetery (a military cemetery in Belgium), were disinterred in April 2019 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base (in) Nebraska for examination and identification,” the press release said. “To identify Wassil’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome DNA and autosomal DNA analysis.”

The Bloomfield Public Library posted archival photographs and newspaper articles it had about Wassil’s deployment and death on its Facebook page on Friday, Nov. 26. According to an obituary, Wassil was a graduate of Bloomfield High School and was interested in sports. He had a 10-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.

In an interview with NJ.com, Wassil’s daughter, Barbara Loock, who is now in her 80s and lives in Pennsylvania, said that Wassil played football for the Bengals while a student at BHS. Wassil was also an avid golfer.

“We never knew what happened,” Loock told NJ.com. “It was always an uncertainty. We didn’t know if one day he’d just show up or something. It was one of those kinds of things.”

According to the DPAA, Wassil’s name is on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery, which is an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margraten, Netherlands. Now that Wassil has been identified and accounted for, a rosette will be placed next to his name.
Wassil will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., next year.

“We were happy to get closure,” Loock said in the interview with NJ.com.

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