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World War II soldier from Waterbury missing since 1944 officially accounted for

A search for Bernard Sweeney between 1946 and 1950 yielded no results and he had been declared 'non-recoverable' in 1951.
Credit: AP
FILE- In this Sunday, May 30, 2004, file image, People pause at a grave with the Star of David amidst other graves as they attend the 60-year commemoration service ahead of Memorial Day at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, southern Netherlands. A total of 8,302 war veterans and war victims are buried at the cemetery. With the help of volunteers in the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States scouring newspaper archives and other sources, the Faces of Margraten project of Dutch historian Sebastiaan Vonk has so far uncovered photos of more than 7,500 of the U.S servicemen and women buried or commemorated at Margraten. They were due to be displayed next to graves in Margraten this week as Europe commemorates the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, but the event was cancelled due to COVID-19 coronavirus related measures. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

WATERBURY, Conn. — A 22-year-old soldier from Waterbury who fought in World War II has been positively identified after his remains were determined 'non-recoverable' for decades, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Thursday. 

The DPAA said that in December 1944, Bernard Sweeney was assigned to Company 1, 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division. His unit had been engaged in battle with German forces near Strass, Germany, in the Hürtgen Forest. 

On December 16th, Sweeney was reported missing in action. His body was not recovered. 

Following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command was tasked with investigating and recovering missing American personnel in Europe. 

The service conducted several investigations in the area between 1946 and 1950 but was unable to recover or identify any of Sweeney's remains and he was declared non-recoverable in November 1951. 

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However, while studying unresolved American losses in the Hürtgen area, a DPAA historian determined that one set of unidentified remains could possibly belong to Sweeney. The remains were found in 1946, in a minefield just north of Kleinhau, Germany. 

The remains, which had been buried in Ardennes American Cemetery in 1950, were disinterred in April 2019 and sent to the DPAA laboratory for identification. 

The DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis as well as circumstantial evidence to help identify the remains. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA analysis. 

Sweeney was positively identified on June 14, 2021. 

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Sweeney’s great-niece, Tammy Hynes, his oldest, closest living relative, told the Associated Press her family is delighted over the identification and thankful for the military’s efforts. Sweeney was her grandfather’s brother.

“I have some pride there and some really good feelings about what he did for all of our countries, and the fact that they went to these great lengths to identify him and honor him in the way I think he should be honored for what he did, for giving his life for our great country,” said Hynes, 54, of Cape Coral, Florida. “I really wished my dad was still alive to know this.”

Hynes said funeral and burial services are still being planned. She said her family is trying to find the grave of Sweeney’s mother, who apparently killed herself after being told her son died in the war, and bury him next to her.

After her father died five years ago, Hynes said she was going through his belongings and found letters Sweeney wrote during the war. She said he wrote about women he wanted to marry when he got home, being promoted to sergeant and other topics.

Sweeney's name was recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery also with others still missing from World War II. 

DPAA said a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

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