VIROQUA, Wis. (AP) – A body of World War II soldier mistakenly buried in a German ossuary is finally on his way home, but not before making a stop in Wisconsin.
A horse-drawn funeral carriage delivered Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon to a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Viroqua Friday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“It’s a unique opportunity to honor one of our fallen after all these years,” said Gordon Hellwig, a member of the honor guard from Coon Valley.
Viroqua’s connection is that it produced Staff Sgt. David L. Henry, who served with Gordon.
Henry’s grandson, Middleton filmmaker Jed Henry, was working on a documentary about his grandfather when he learned about Gordon and helped solve the mystery of Gordon’s location.
After the public reception with several dozen area residents, the carriage, a bagpiper, Wisconsin National Guard members and Wisconsin Patriot riders slowly processed down Main St. to a waiting transport vehicle at the fairgrounds, which will take Gordon about 1,600 miles back to Eastend, Saskatchewan, Canada. That’s where he was born and raised before moving to Wyoming to work on a ranch. Gordon enlisted in the U.S. Army while in Wyoming.
Gordon is going to be buried Wednesday in his Canadian hometown on the 70th anniversary of his death.
A trail of decades-old military records led Henry and other researchers to an aboveground crypt at the German ossuary Mont de Huisnes in Normandy, where Gordon had been interred with almost 12,000 WWII German soldiers.
Henry also made contact with Gordon’s nephew and namesake, Lawrence R. Gordon, a lawyer in Medicine Hat, Alberta, who became heavily involved in the search and is accompanying his uncle home to Canada.
After hearing evidence collected by Henry and others, the German War Graves Commission and the French government granted permission late last year for DNA to be extracted from the remains of German Unknown X-356 at the German ossuary in France and compared to DNA in saliva from Gordon’s eight nephews.
The DNA Sequencing Facility at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Biotechnology Center analyzed the DNA, along with a private lab on the East Coast, and concluded it belonged to Gordon.