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Denver man, 28, who was killed in World War II is accounted for 80 years later; will be buried in Wheat Ridge

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Harold A. Schafer.jpg
Posted at 11:03 AM, Apr 19, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC — A 28-year-old man from Denver who was killed in World War II was accounted for in September, about eight decades after he died, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced on Thursday.

The remains of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Harold A. Schafer were identified by scientists using anthropological analysis, plus dental and circumstantial evidence. Scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System also used mitochondrial DNA to analyze the remains.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Harold A. Schafer

The DPAA said Schafer, who was born on May 22, 1916 in Denver, grew up in the area. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division in December 1944.

On Dec. 6 of that year, his battalion crossed the Saar River in northeast France and western Germany. And after gaining high ground north of Dillingen, Germany, they were stopped by German troops. For several days, the battalion held defensive positions and drove back counterattacks.

On Dec. 10, Schafer was killed by enemy fire while he adjusted his position amid intense gunfire. The others in the battalion could not recover his body. When American troops were ordered to withdraw from that area on Dec. 21, many bodies of those killed had to be left behind, the DPAA said.

After the end of World War II, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) took on the task of recovering missing Americans in Europe. This included investigating the Dillingen area between 1946 and 1950, but they did not recover or identify Schafer’s remains then. By November 1951, he was declared non-recoverable, the DPAA said.

Staff Sergeant Harold A. Schafer_Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

Just a few years before, the AGRC had recovered remains designated as X-4651 St. Avold. It wasn't until 2018 that a historian with DPAA studying American soldiers lost at Dilligen determined that those remains may be Schafer, the DPAA said. They were exhumed in August 2021 by the Department of Defense and the American Battle Monuments Commission from the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

Once recovered, the remains were sent to the DPAA laboratory, where they were identified.

Schafer will be buried in Wheat Ridge at a later date.

Schafer’s name is on the Walls of the Missing at Lorraine American Cemetery in Avold, France. Because he has now been accounted for, a rosette will be placed next to his name, the DPAA said.

Denver 7+ Colorado News Latest Headlines | April 19, 8am

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