|Nearly 75 years after being reported missing, local World War II solider’s remains identified
|By Brianna Stephens
Advocate Associate Editor
The family of Army Pfc. Jacob W. Givens, a Mt. Sterling World War II soldier whose remains were recently identified, said they are thankful to have closure nearly 75 years after he was reported missing in action.
“This is a day we thought would never come,” Judi Calhoun of Prestonsburg said.She is Givens’ granddaughter.
“It’s exciting for our family. It’s something that you don’t expect,” she added.
Gov. Matt Bevin recognized Givens’ sacrifice Monday. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) also announced that Givens was officially accounted for June 17.
In October 1944, Givens, age 30, was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, which engaged against enemy forces in the Raffelsbrand sector of the Hürtgen Forest near Gemeter, Germany, a release said.
The fighting in that area was fierce and lasted for several months. It was hard for soldiers to immediately go back and search for remains after the fighting because there were several landmines in the area, Calhoun added.
Givens was reported missing in action as of Oct. 20, 1944, when his company reorganized after a severe counterattack, and he could not be accounted for, a release said. After the war, the American Graves Registration Command extensively searched the Hürtgen Forest for him, but no remains found in the area were identified as Givens’, and the Army declared him non-recoverable, it added.
Now 83 years old, Zelma Givens McDowell was 8 years old when Givens, her father, went into the service. Just before her ninth birthday, the family was notified he was missing in action.
Over the years, Calhoun said her mother never knew what happened to Givens and even visited with other men that he had left for the service with in an attempt to find out any details.
McDowell was proud of her father’s service, Calhoun said, and she always kept his memory alive in the family. She would tell stories, like about how he took her to get milk and cookies, even when their family had little money, and taught her children to have a strong respect for those in the military.
She also kept pictures of him up in the home and gave her children all pictures of him to display in their homes.
“You have to keep that memory alive,” Calhoun said. “He’s what made this country. They (the soldiers) are the men that went in and gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Calhoun added families of veterans, like hers, also make sacrifices when they have to live without their loved one.
When news came that Givens’ remains had been identified, Calhoun said her mother was elated, but “couldn’t wrap her head around it.” It was a surprise to McDowell, and something she never expected to hear.
“While studying unresolved American losses in and unidentified remains recovered from the Hürtgen Forest, DPAA personnel analyzed historical documentation regarding X-5483 Neuville, a set of unidentified remains recovered on May 15, 1947, from District No. 20C of the Hürtgen Forest by the AGRC,” a release said.
“The remains had originally been found by a German woodcutter who later led an AGRC team to the site. The AGRC team found the remains lying on the ground, surrounded by U.S. Army infantry equipment. The remains, designated X-5483, could not be identified, and were interred at the United States Military Cemetery Neuville (present day Ardennes American Cemetery).”
Based upon the original recovery location of X-5483, a historian with the DPAA determined there was a likely association between the remains and Givens, a release said. The Dept. of Defense and American Battle Monuments Commission interred X-5483 and accessioned the remains to the DPAA laboratory for identification.
Scientists from the DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis and circumstantial and material evidence, and scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDN) and Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis, a release said.
DPAA recognized the American Battle Monuments Commission and to the U.S. Army Regional Mortutary-Europe/Africa for their partnership with the mission.
The family has received a lot of information over the summer, Calhoun said, and has been able to learn more about what Givens faced. She added with the injuries he sustained, it is easy to tell he faced a heavy battle.
She also commended the efforts of the United States for continuing the search and identification of its veterans.
McDowell and her family chose to have Givens’ remains brought back to Kentucky to be buried in a family cemetery the weekend of Veterans Day.
Calhoun said the visitation and service will be open to the public to attend. The weekend will not only celebrate Givens’ sacrifice, but the sacrifices of all veterans, she added.
Visitation is tentatively set from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at Fitzpatrick First Baptist Church, 1063 Big Branch of Abbott Creek in Prestonsburg. The funeral service is tentatively set to be at noon, Saturday, Nov. 9. Calhoun said the graveside service will be private for the family.
Bevin will order flags lowered to half staff that day in Givens’ honor, a release said.
As her family looks forward to giving Givens “the burial he deserves,” Calhoun said she hopes other families will be able to bring their veterans home.
“I’m very hopeful many other families will have this blessing. I hope they will have their loved one returned,” she said.
She added Givens’ name is featured on a memorial in Machpelah Cemetery in Mt. Sterling and on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margraten, Netherlands. Others who are missing from World War II are also included.
Although interred as an Unknown, Givens’ grave was meticulously cared for by the American Battle Monuments Commission for 70 years, a release said. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war, a release said. There are currently 72,669 service members still unaccounted for from World War II. Approximately 30,000 are assessed as “possibly-recoverable.”