Michigan man killed in action during WWII accounted for after nearly 80 years

(Department of Veteran Affairs)
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 1:08 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A Michigan man, who was officially declared killed in action 79 years ago, will be returning home.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Max W. Thurston, 19, from Flint, was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, in November 1944. His regiment was engaged in fierce fighting near Germeter, Germany, in the Hürtgen Forest—where he was reportedly killed in action on Nov. 6.

Officials said his body could not be recovered due to the intense fighting against heavily reinforced German forces. As American forces secured the area, many bodies could not be recovered due to dense, tangled vegetation and heavy snowfall.

Following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command was tasked with investigating and recovering missing American personnel in Europe. They conducted several investigations in the Hürtgen area between 1946 and 1950 but could not identify Thurston’s remains among hundreds recovered during that period. He was officially declared Killed in Action in November 1944.

While studying unresolved American losses in the Hürtgen area, a DPAA historian found that one set of unidentified remains recovered in April 1948, could have possibly belonged to Thurston.

The remains, which had been buried in Ardennes American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, in 1949, were disinterred in July 2021 and sent to the DPAA laboratory for identification.

To identify Thurston’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence. Armed Forces Medical Examiner System scientists used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analyses.

He was accounted for on July 7, 2023.

Thurston’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margraten, Netherlands, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Thurston will be buried in Holly, Michigan, on a date to be determined.

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