WASHINGTON – The remains of a central Missouri soldier killed during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, have been identified and will be coming home for burial.

U.S. Army Private William A. Smith of Syracuse, Missouri, was assigned in June 1944 to Company C, 149th Engineer Combat Battalion, in the European Theater. On June 6, Smith was aboard Landing Craft Infantry 92 (LCI-92) along with 200 soldiers and 25 crewmen, headed toward Omaha Beach in Normandy as part of the largest seaborne invasion in recorded history.

U.S Army Pvt. William A. Smith (Courtesy: DPAA)

As LCI-92 approached the shoreline, the vessel struck an underwater, which caused the craft to burst into flames. The vessel was also struck by enemy artillery fire, which ignited the ship’s fuel stores in the forward compartment. The explosion killed everyone on board LCI-92.

Due to the situation, it was impossible for rescue or recovery operations. Around June 10, days after the Allies had successfully gained a foothold in France, members of the 500th Medical Collecting Company examined the wreckage of LCI-92 and discovered burnt remains in the troop compartment where Smith and other soldiers were believed to have been stationed. The American Graves Registration Command retrieved the remains from LCI-92 and buried them in the U.S. Military Cemetery St. Laurent-sur-Mer.

In 1946, the AGRC examined the remains and separated them into four unknowns (X-53, X-83, X-83B, and X-83C). Unfortunately, the remains could not be identified at the time, and they were interred at the Normandy American Cemetery.

In June and August 2021, the Department of Defense exhumed the comingled remains of the four unknowns and transported them to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) Laboratory for new analysis.

Scientists from the DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used anthropological and mitochondrial DNA analysis to identify the remains. The process requires familial DNA from the family member most closely related to the missing soldier, which is used as a main source for identifying remains.

U.S Army Pvt. William A. Smith (Courtesy: DPAA)

The DPAA successfully identified and accounted for Smith on Aug. 21, 2023. The Past Conflict Repatriations Branch, under the Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky, recently notified and briefed Smith’s family with information on the records of historical, forensic, and DNA reports, benefits, and the mortuary process, including burial with full military honors.

The Past Conflict Repatriations Branch plays a crucial role in the process of locating family members of missing soldiers from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Smith will be laid to rest on Nov. 11 in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Smith’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer in France, along with the others who are missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to Smith’s name to indicate he has been accounted for.