VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — U.S. Army Pfc. Morris Swackhammer had been reported missing in action in France during World War II, but now nearly eight decades later, his remains have been identified and he is being given a proper burial.
In November of 1944, Swackhammer’s unit was engaged in a firefight outside the Fraize, France. Swackhammer was badly shot by German machine gun fire and his body had to be left behind amid the enemy attack.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a division of the Defense Department tasked with identifying unaccounted for soldiers, discovered unidentified remains in a cemetery near where Swackhammer’s unit was fighting when he went missing.
Investigators contacted Carol Finkle, Swackhammer’s niece. She connected with family members and provided DNA samples to investigators who then verified the remains were indeed Swackhammer’s.
“When they called me on the phone, the initial reaction was, ‘They found him, and oh, how sad that my grandmother doesn’t know.’ But she already knew, because, you know, he’s in heaven, and she’s in heaven,” Finkle said.
Finkle said not only has the news brought closure to her family, but also presented an opportunity to reconnect with distant cousins.
They plan to gather in late June as Swackhammer is laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Finkle said the experience has been eye-opening to the realities many families faced during the second world war. She encourages others to honor the sacrifice those and other families have made, especially on Memorial Day.
“We really need to take it more to heart and really think about how many families out there have lost a loved one during World War I, World War II, whichever, Vietnam.” Finkle said. “We really need to respect the day and the sacrifices that so many families have made for us.”