WASHINGTON – The remains of a Parkton man killed in action during World War II have been identified and his body will be buried next month in Robeson County, according to an announcement by the US Department of Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency earlier this week.
The announcement was made on Thursday that U.S. Army 1st Lt. James E. Wright was found on July 9. Wright will be buried on October 12 at Lumber Bridge.
In September 1944 Wright was killed in action at the age of 25. He was assigned to F Company, 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division in September 1944, according to the DPAA. Wright was a member of Lieutenant General George S. Patton’s Third Army who fought across France over the summer before meeting German opposition on the Moselle near Dornot.
Wright’s name is inscribed on the walls of the Missing at the Lorraine American Cemetery, a site of the American Battle Monuments Commission in Saint-Avold, France, along with others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he has been considered, according to the DPAA.
The soldier’s return to Robeson County soil means a lot to veterans Mickey Biggs and Duncan Mackie.
Biggs served in the US Navy from 1977 to 1981. He is also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars – Lumberton Post 8969 and the American Legion.
âWhen you have to leave someone behind, it kind of leaves a hole, an empty space,â Biggs said.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers have been killed in action, Biggs said. And bringing them home is a great honor.
âThey made the ultimate sacrifice, they were killed in action,â Biggs said.
Mackie, who served in the US Army for three years in the 1970s, said his father also served in World War II. Bringing the soldiers home ends their families and honors their legacy and sacrifice, he said.
âIt is extremely important for us to do everything we can to bring these soldiers home so that they are not forgotten,â Mackie said.
Mackie currently works as a funeral director for the McNeill-Mackie Funeral Home in St. Pauls, which honors veterans every Remembrance Day by placing flags on their graves. Over the past two years, volunteers have placed flags on hundreds of graves of veterans who served in various wars.
âYou are talking about 120 years of service to our country,â he said. âWe have to remember these people. “
The American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) was tasked with recovering the remains of fallen servicemen in the European theater after the war. Although some unknown remains have been found in and around Horseshoe Woods, none have been associated with Wright. AGRC continued to operate along the banks of the Moselle until 1951. At that time Wright was declared unrecoverable.
In 2012, a private researcher from the 7th Armored Division Association suggested that one of the unknowns recovered from the Horseshoe Woods, known as X-46 Hamm and buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery, a site of the American Battle Monuments Commission in Hamm, Luxembourg, could be a match with a soldier from Wright’s unit or the 7th Armored Division.
After extensive research and comparison of records by historians and DPAA analysts, the X-46 was exhumed in May 2016 and sent to the DPAA lab at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for identification.
To identify Wright’s remains, DPAA scientists used dental and anthropological analyzes. In addition, scientists in the Armed Forces Forensic Pathologist system used the analysis of mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA.
On the morning of September 8, 1944, Wright’s unit was part of a larger force ordered to cross the river and take up position in the woods on the east side. They carved out their defensive positions in a curving line at the edge of the forest which they called Horseshoe Woods. The force held its position against a relentless German attack, with heavy losses, until September 10, when another crossing of the Moselle was made, according to the DPAA. Only then were they allowed to retreat.
Most of the soldiers crossed the river that evening and until the morning of September 11. Some stayed behind to search for injured and missing soldiers, according to the DPAA. Wright was reported missing on September 10.
His body could not be found due to the fighting and the German presence on the east bank of the river, according to the DPAA.
The DPAA expressed its gratitude to the American Battle Monuments Commission and the US Army Regional Mortuary-Europe / Africa for their partnership in the mission.
For more information on the Department of Defense’s mission to account for Americans who disappeared while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil. Wright’s staff profile can also be viewed on the website.
Mackie told the Robesonian that the sacrifices made by soldiers like Wright have left a lasting impact on America today and should never be forgotten.
âThey gave their lives in many cases basically so that we could live as we live today,â Mackie said. “There cannot be much more honor in serving than that.”