CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – For the past 78 years, a West Virginia family has held on to hope that their beloved soldier would be found and brought home. Now, a World War II soldier will finally be coming home to the Mountain State decades after he was reported missing in action in 1944.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced in November that U.S. Army Cpl. Joseph H. Gunnoe, of Charleston, West Virginia, has finally been accounted for. The agency says Gunnoe, who was just 21 at the time he was declared missing, was officially identified on Sept. 14, 2022 and his family has now been notified.
Gunnoe’s great great nephew Morgan Sheets said the family never gave up hope.
“He was one of thirteen children and of those children five of them were in WWII,” Sheets said. “So many family members have been in on this quest.”
Gunnoe was a Charleston High School graduate who worked for the Kanawha Manufacturing company before joining the army, according to a newspaper clipping provided by the DPAA. The clipping states he was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. B.A. Gunnoe. Four of his brother also served in the US armed forces, according to the clipping.
According to the DPAA, Gunnoe was assigned to Company G, 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Divison in November 1944. The unit captured the German town of Vossenack in the Hürtgen Forest on Nov. 2, 1944 and held the town against German artillery and small arms fire until it was forced to withdraw on Nov. 6, 1944.
The DPAA says Company G was not able to take a full account of the survivors until days later due to the circumstances of the battle. The Company found Gunnoe was among the missing and the survivors had no information as to what happened to him.
“His platoon mates said the last time they saw Joe he was on the steps of a church throwing hand grenades at Germans that were advancing and that was the last they saw of him.”Morgan Sheets, great great nephew of Gunnoe
Gunnoe was officially reported missing in action on Nov. 9, 1944. Because his body was never recovered or identified after the battle and German troops never reported him as a prisoner of war, Gunnoe was declared as killed in action after the war was over.
The American Graves Registration worked to investigate and recover missing American personnel in Europe following World War II and conducted several investigations in the Hürtgen area between 1946 and 1950, but said they were not able to find Gunnoe. The DPAA says he was declared “non-recoverable” in October 1951.
Historians with the DPAA have continued to research and investigate unidentified remains from the war. In recent years, one of the agency’s historians determined a set of unidentified remains buried in 1949 in the Ardennes American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, could have been Gunnoe’s. The remains had been recovered near Vossenack in June 1946.
The DPAA says the remains were disinterred from Ardennes in July 2021 and sent to ta DPAA lab at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to be identified. After anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence analysis from DPAA scientists and mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA analysis by Armed Forces Medical Examiner System scientists, Gunnoe’s remains were positively identified Sept. 14, 2022.
According the DPAA, Gunnoe’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing along with others who are missing from WWII at the Netherlands American Cemetery, which is an American Battle Monuments Commission site located in Margraten, Netherlands. Now that Gunnoe’s remains have been identified, a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Gunnoe will be buried at Sunset Memorial Park with members of his family.
“We had an open plot,” Sheets said. “His mom and dad were buried at Sunset Memorial Park and so were his brothers and sisters. There was an open plot right beside his brother Bob so he is going to be buried with his family.”
The DPAA says Gunnoe will be buried in Charleston, West Virginia on Dec. 14, 2022.