The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Army Pvt. Ballard McCurley, 34, of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, killed during World War II, was accounted for on June 4, 2019.
In November 1944, McCurley was a member of Company M, 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, during the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest in Germany. On Nov. 29, 1944, his battalion went to a reserve position in the woods west of the town of Hürtgen. He and other Soldiers in his unit were ordered to clear a field of tree stumps so vehicles could drop off rations and supplies. According to witnesses, while clearing out a tree stump, McCurley inadvertently set off an enemy anti-personnel mine and was killed instantly. His remains were not recovered or identified immediately after his loss.
After the war, McCurley’s remains were still missing. The American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) extensively searched the Hürtgen Forest for him. Unable to make a correlation among the dozens of unknown remains found in the area, the Army declared him non-recoverable.
While studying unresolved American losses in and unidentified remains recovered from the Hürtgen Forest, DPAA personnel analyzed historical documentation regarding X-7359 Neuville, a set of unidentified remains recovered in March 1948 from District #196 of the Hürtgen Forest by the AGRC. The remains had originally been found by a German civilian walking along a forest trail 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-7359, 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-7359, a DPAA historian determined that there was a likely association between the remains and McCurley. In August 2018, the Department of Defense and American Battle Monuments Commission disinterred X-7359 and accessioned the remains to the DPAA laboratory for identification.
To identify McCurley’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
McCurley will be buried April 25, 2020, in his hometown.