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The long road home

Missing Bolivar WWII soldier identified, to return to Missouri

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The long road home

More than 75 years after his presumed death, a Bolivar World War II soldier has been identified and will be laid to rest in Missouri.  

Via a news release Tuesday, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced U.S. Army Pvt. James J. Cansler, 21, of Bolivar, killed during World War II, was accounted for Jan. 29. 

According to his DPAA personnel file, Cansler joined the U.S. Army from Missouri and was a member of the 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division, which took part in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest.  

On Dec. 19, 1944, he and other members of his company worked to secure a road and section of woods southeast of Vossenack, Germany. He “was last seen at the edge of these woods and was found to be missing in action when his company reorganized the next day,” his records state.  

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Trees damaged by artillery paint a stark scene after the Battle of Hürtgen Forest.

“A year later, Army officials had received no evidence he had been captured or otherwise survived combat, and so released a presumptive finding of death,” the agency said via the release. 

He was “declared non-recoverable in 1951,” the agency said, following several investigations. 

After the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command “was tasked with investigating and recovering missing American personnel in Europe,” DPAA reported.   

“They conducted several investigations in the Hürtgen area between 1946 and 1950 but were unable to recover or identify Cansler’s remains,” the agency added.  

However, “while studying unresolved American losses” in the area, a DPAA historian made progress on Cansler’s case, the agency said.  

The historian determined one set of unidentified remains, which had been buried in Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium — designated X-2505 Neuville and recovered from a minefield north of Vossenack in 1946 — possibly belonged to the Bolivar soldier.  

The agency said the remains were disinterred in June 2018 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for identification. 

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Deep in the Hürtgen Forest in Germany, unidentified American infantrymen move across a bridge over a small stream. A tank, part of the new Allied offensive, can be seen in the background. Cansler belonged to the 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division, which also took part in the battle.

“To identify Cansler’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence,” the agency said. “Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis.” 

Now the identity has been confirmed, Cansler’s remains are set to return home, the agency said. He will be buried Wednesday, April 15, in Springfield. 

And a monument in Europe will help tell the conclusion of the soldier’s story, the agency added.  

His name, along with the others missing from World War II, is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margarten, Netherlands.  

“A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for,” the agency said.

Agency case manager William Cox told the BH-FP on Tuesday, March 3, Cansler’s family had declined to be contacted by the media. 

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A combat team makes its way through the Hürtgen Forest in Germany during World War II. While this image depicts the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, Cansler belonged to the 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division, which also took part in the battle.

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