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Remains of local solider killed during D-Day invasion to return home for Veterans Day

U.S. Army Sgt. John O. Herrick, 19, of Emporia, Kansas (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency/Released)

A local soldier killed during the Normandy landings of World War II is coming home after 80 years.

In a press release posted Monday, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that U.S. Army Sgt. John O. Herrick, 19, of Emporia, Kansas, killed during World War II, was accounted for Aug. 21, 2023.

According to news clippings detailing his service, John Herrick was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Herrick of Clinton, Tennessee. He had two brothers, Bill, who was injured in action during WWII, and Carl Jr., as well as a sister, Gene Parsons. At the time John enlisted, the family lived on a small farm in Bushong. Herrick, who briefly attended Emporia High School, was one of four young graduates of Bushong High School who went missing following the D-Day attacks.

In June 1944, Herrick was assigned to Company B, 149th Engineer Combat Battalion in the European Theater. On June 6, 1944, which later became known as D-Day, Herrick, and roughly 200 other service members, were aboard Landing Craft Infantry (Large) 92, enroute to Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France.

“As LCI-92 steamed toward the shore, it struck an underwater mine which caused the craft to burst into flames,” the DPAA said. “The craft was also hit by enemy artillery fire, causing an explosion that ignited the ships fuel stores and instantly killed everyone in the troop compartment. Due to the urgency of the situation, it was impossible for others to search for survivors. Herrick’s remains were not accounted for after the war.”

A few days later, members of the 500th Medical Collecting Company examined the wreckage of LCI-92. The American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), the organization that searched for and recovered fallen American personnel in the European Theater, removed small amounts of remains from LCI-92 before burying them in the United States Military Cemetery St. Laurent-sur-Mer in Normandy.

In 1946, AGRC reexamined the remains, identifying them as four separate unknown soldiers, before interring them in Normandy American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site.

“In June and August 2021, the Department of Defense and ABMC officials exhumed the comingled remains of the four Unknowns and transferred them to the DPAA Laboratory for analysis,” the DPAA said. “To identify Herrick’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.”

Herrick’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Now, a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Sgt. Herrick will be buried on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2024, in Emporia.


(c) 2024 The Emporia Gazette

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