U.S. officials announced on Thursday that the remains of a human being found in a Belgium cemetery have been identified as those belonging to a U.S. Army sergeant from Connecticut who was missing in Germany during World War II.
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency stated that testing confirmed the remains to be those of Sgt. Bernard Sweeney, Waterbury. His body was taken to Ardennes American cemetery in Belgium where it was buried along with other unidentified soldiers. It had been found in a minefield near Kleinhau (Germany) in 1946.
The identification was made the same day the agency received the remains from a World War II pilot, whose body was found in Europe’s Adriatic Sea. In April, U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant Ernest N. Vienneau’s remains were found. He will be buried at Millinocket in Maine on October 9. Vienneau, who was 25 at the time of Vienneau’s death, was a lawyer.
Sweeney (22) was reported missing in action after his unit had battled German forces near the Belgian border in Hurtgen Forest on Dec. 16, 1944. He was assigned in Company I, 330th Infantry Regiment of the 83rd Infantry Divison.
Sweeney’s great-niece Tammy Hynes, who is also his oldest, most distant living relative, stated that the family was thrilled about the identification and thankful for the military’s efforts. Sweeney was her grandfathers’ brother.
Hynes, 54 years old, from Cape Coral in Florida said, “I feel some pride there and some really positive feelings about what he done for all of us country and the fact they went to such great lengths to recognize him and honor him the way I think we should be honored for his work, for giving our life for our great nation,” “I wish my father was still around to tell me this.”
Hynes indicated that funeral and burial services were still being planned. She stated that Sweeney’s mom, who died from the effects of the war, is being buried next to her body by her family.
Hynes stated that her father had died five years earlier and she was looking through his belongings when she discovered letters Sweeney had written during World War II. Hynes claimed that Sweney wrote about women he hoped to marry after he returned from war.
Over the last few years, the military has experienced a significant increase in the identification of U.S. troops who were missing in action. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency identified Army Sgt. Melvin Anderson from Omaha, Nebraska.
The Army describes the Hurtgen Forest Battle as one of the most brutal and difficult battles for U.S. troops during World War II. It lasted from September 1944 through February 1945. More than 33,000 U.S. troopers were wounded or killed.
After the war, the American Graves Registration Command was established to search for and recover American personnel missing in Europe. The unit conducted numerous investigations in the Hurtgen region, but was unable to find Sweeney’s remains. He was declared non-recoverable by 1951.
The agency stated that Sweeney may have been one of the remains from the minefield in Kleinhau, six decades after the fact.
In April 2019, the body of Sweeney was exhumed from the cemeteries and sent to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for identification. In June, Sweeney was positively identified by scientists. They used dental and anthropological analyses, collected circumstantial evidence, and tested DNA from the remains with a DNA specimen provided by Sweeney’s relative.