CHARLOTTE, N.C. — DNA, dental and other analyses confirmed the identity of remains buried in Belgium as a 27-year-old World War II soldier from North Carolina who died during battle in a German forest, officials with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Friday.
Army Pfc. David Owens, of Green Hill in Watauga County, was among the first soldiers to land on the French coast on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when Allied troops invaded Nazi-occupied France, according to newspaper clippings when Owens was reported missing in action on Nov. 22, 1944.
Owens died while his unit battled German forces in the Hurtgen Forest, which is near Hurtgen, Germany, according to a DPAA news release. The release included newspaper photos and clippings of Owens from when we was reported missing.
Declared killed in action
In the title of his 2013 book about the battle, author Rick Atkinson describes Hurtgen Forest as “the worst place of any” due to the fierce fighting and casualties.
Owens was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, DPAA officials said.
“His body was unable to be recovered, and the Germans never reported him as a prisoner of war,” according to the news release. “He was declared killed in action Nov. 23, 1945.”
After the war, the American Graves Registration Command searched the Hurtgen area several times between 1946 and 1950 but never recovered or identified Owens’ remains. The command led the investigations and recovery of missing American soldiers in Europe.
Owens “was declared non-recoverable in December 1950,” according to the DPAA release.
Thanks to a DPAA historian, remains believed to be Owens were disinterred in August 2018 from Ardennes American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, officials said.