73 years after his death in World War II, soldier's remains come home

Published: Nov. 29, 2017 at 10:46 PM EST
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On Nov. 29, 1944, Charleston native Army Private Shirley E. Bailey was killed during a World War II battle along the Belgian-German Border.

He was 19 years old when he was killed running to the aid of a fellow soldier in the Hurtgen Forest in Germany.

On Nov. 29, 2017, exactly 73 years later, his remains returned to Charleston.

His younger sister, who was just 3 when Private Bailey died in the War, was at Yeager Airport Wednesday night to help ensure her brother safely makes it to his final resting place.

Bailey will be buried at 1 p.m Saturday at the Donel C. Kinnard Veteran's Cemetery in Dunbar.

According to a news release from Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency:

Due to the ongoing fighting, Bailey's remains were not recovered by members of his unit during the battle. After the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) collected hundreds of unknown sets of remains from battlefields in Germany, and labeled each set with an X-number. One set of remains, designated X-4734 Neuville, had been recovered from an isolated grave near Schlich, Germany, in December 1946. Medical technicians were unable to identify them in the 1940s and the remains were buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, as an unknown soldier.

In October 2016, DPAA researchers made a historical association between X-4734 Neuville and Bailey, based on the recovery site of the remains and his location of loss. On June 26, 2017, X-4734 was disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska.

To identify Bailey's remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and material evidence.

Gov. Jim Justice has ordered that all U.S. and West Virginia State Flags on state-owned facilities be flown at half-staff from dawn to dusk on Friday, Dec. 1, in honor of Private Bailey.