HomeNewsRemains of WWII Soldier Returned To Mississippi After Nearly 80 Years

Remains of WWII Soldier Returned To Mississippi After Nearly 80 Years

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

World War II came to an end almost eight decades ago. However, the aftermath of the incredible tragedy is still present around the world to this day. Over 73 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives in the 6-year war, with around 6,000 soldiers remaining unidentified all these decades later.

Thankfully, with the help of new technology, more and more soldiers are finally finding their final resting place. Just this weekend, a WWII soldier named Andrew Ladner was laid to rest in Wolf River Cemetery in Gulfport, Mississippi.

What to Know:

  • A WWII soldier died during a mission to cut off Japanese supply lines
  • As efforts to find the soldier failed, the Army marked Ladner “unrecoverable”
  • Modern science allowed researchers to identify Ladner’s remains and return him to his home state of Mississippi

Pvt. Andrew Ladner Perished in WWII Mission

In 1942, Ladner received his assignment: the 126th infantry regiment. Later that year, Ladner and the rest of his unit were tasked with cutting off Japanese supply lines from Sanananda Village.

In an interview with WLOX, casualties assistant officer Lt. David Leiva gave some insight into the soldiers’ experience. “They went through hell,” Leiva said. “The Japanese were prepared, and a unit that started with 3,500 was decimated.”

The mission was successful. However, Pvt. Andrew Ladner and other soldiers in his unit gave their lives in the effort. “The battle was so hellish that they couldn’t do what they do today, where we send them back. The unit had to continue fighting,” David Leiva said. “They probably buried him at night.”

“What makes his story a tad bit unique is he was a bit older than other soldiers. He wasn’t drafted. He volunteered, he was a true American hero.”

Nonrecoverable WWII Soldier Andrew Ladner Returned to Mississippi

Though the American Graves Registration Service, the organization responsible for searching for and recovering fallen soldiers, they failed to retrieve Pvt. Andrew Ladner. No doubt a crushing blow to his loved ones, the military declared Ladner nonrecoverable on January 24, 1950.

More than 65 years later, the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, received the remains of an unknown soldier. For five years, the agency analyzed dental records, as well as material and circumstantial evidence. They went as far as to call in scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System for a mitochondrial DNA analysis.

And in July of 2021, the DPAA Laboratory finally got their answer. They successfully identified the remains as Pvt. Andrew Ladner, the long-lost WWII soldier from Mississippi.

Though she always hoped he would return alive, Voetress Ladner, niece of the recovered soldier, expressed her gratitude for the return of her uncle. Pvt. Ladner’s name is now on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. In addition, he’ll have a rosette next to his name, indicating that he found his final resting place at last.