FORT KNOX, Ky. – The remains of a St. Louis native killed during World War II will be interred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in July.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Woodrow F. Gerdes was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 110th Infantry Regiment, of the 28th Infantry Division.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Woodrow F. Gerdes

The 28th Infantry Division saw intense fighting with German forces in the fall of 1944 at the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, as part of Operation Queen. Gerdes was initially reported missing at the age of 31 on Nov. 9, 1944, near the town of Germeter, Germany. The 28th Infantry suffered heavy losses and the Allies were defeated. However, the battle is not widely remembered because the German Army used the area to launch its failed winter offensive in the Ardennes, better known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Germany never reported Gerdes as a prisoner of war and the U.S. Army did not have clear knowledge of his whereabouts. The Army eventually concluded that Gerdes was killed in action.

After the war, the American Graves Registration Command was responsible for recovering missing American personnel in the European Theater. They searched the Hürtgen area from 1846 to 1950 but could not locate Gerdes’ remains. The U.S. Army deemed Gerdes non-recoverable in November 1951.

Years ago, an historian with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) followed up on a lead for remains recovered from a foxhole near Raffelsbrand in April 1947. Raffelsbrand is approximately 1.2 miles west of Germeter.

Those remains were interred at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium, in 1949. They were disinterred in June 2018 and sent to the DPAA laboratory for identification.

Scientists from the DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used anthropological and circumstantial evidence, as well as 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.

The DPAA successfully identified and accounted for Gerdes on July 25, 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, notified and briefed Gerdes’ 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.

Gerdes will be laid to rest on July 1, with Collier’s Funeral Home of St. Ann handling the graveside service.

Gerdes’ name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.