MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After more than 75 years, a World War II tanker from Loudon County who went missing in action is being returned home to East Tennessee.
U.S. Army Cpl. Joe A. Vinyard, 23, was accounted for on Sept. 9, 2022, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). He was assigned to Company A, of the 77th Tank Battalion in December 1944 as a crewmember on an M4 Sherman Tank.
The unit engaged in battle with German forces in the Hürtgen Forest near Gey, Germany, a small area East of the Belgian and Netherlands border when his tank was hit by an 88-mm round.
The crew bailed from the tank, but Vinyard was missing when they regrouped a few minutes later. A crewman said he saw Vinyard exit the tank, but they were unable to find him even after several days, officials said.
There were two later inspections of the tank. However, no remains were found, and Vinyard was never reported as a prisoner of war.
The War Department issued a presumptive finding of death in April 1964.
The DPAA said there were efforts by the American Graves Registration Command after the war to investigate and recover missing American personnel in Europe. In the fall of 1947, remains were found in two destroyed tanks in or near Gey, but they could not identify the remains. This led to Vinyard being declared non-recoverable in December 1950.
According to officials, a DPAA historian found that one set of the unidentified remains, designated X-6669 Neuville, that had been recovered from one of the burned-out tanks in Gey may have been Vinyard. The remains, which had been buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, were disinterred in July 2021 and sent for analysis to the DPAA lab at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
DPAA scientists identified Vinyard’s remains using anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence, the agency said. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System also used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.
The DPAA made the announcement about the remains on Thursday, May 18, more than eight months after Vinyard was accounted for, because his family was only recently fully briefed, according to an agency spokesperson.
Vinyard is set to be buried in Maryville, although a date has not been scheduled.
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Vinyard’s name is also recorded alongside others who are still missing from World War II on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margraten, Netherlands.
The DPAA said a rosette will be placed next to Vinyard’s name to indicate that his remains have been identified.