MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After more than 75 years, a World War II Tanker from Loudon County that went Missing In Action is being returned home to East Tennessee.
U.S. Army Corporal Joe A. Vinyard, 23, was accounted for on September 9, 2022, according to a release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). He was assigned to Company A, of the 774th Tank Battalion in December 1944 as a crewmember on an M4 Sherman Tank.
The unit engaged in battle with German forces in the Hürtgen Forest near Gey, Germany, a small area East of the Belgian and Netherlands border when his tank was hit by an 88-mm round.
The crew bailed from the tank, but Vinyard was missing when they regrouped a few minutes later. A crewman said he saw Vinyard exit the tank, but they were unable to find him even after several days, the release says. There were two later inspections of the tank, but no remains were found, and Vinyard was never reported as a prisoner of war. The War Department issued a presumptive finding of death in April 1946.
DPAA says there were efforts by the American Graves Registration Command after the war to investigate and recover missing American personnel in Europe. In the fall of 1947, remains were found in two destroyed tanks in or near Gey, but they could not identify the remains. This led to Vinyard being declared non-recoverable in December 1950.
The release says a DPAA historian found that one set of the unidentified remains, designated X-6669 Neuville, that had been recovered from one of the burned-out tanks in Gey may have been Vinyard. The remains that had been buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, were disinterred in July 2021 and sent for analysis to the DPAA lab at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
DPAA scientists identified Vinyard’s remains using anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence, the release says. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System also used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.
While it has been over eight months since Vinyard was accounted for, a spokesperson for the agency said the release was sent on May 18 as his family was only recently fully briefed. His family shared that Vinyard will be buried in Maryville on June 17 at Grandview Cemetery.
Vinyard’s name is also recorded alongside others who are still missing from World War II on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margraten, Netherlands.
DPAA says a rosette will be placed next to Vinyard’s name to indicate that he has been accounted for.