NJ WWII soldier identified after 76 years was a high school football star, avid golfer


Larry S. Wassil (Defense Accounting Agency POW / MIA)

(Tribune News Service) – Barbara Loock had spent more than seven decades not knowing exactly what happened to her father, a U.S. Army sergeant from Bloomfield who went missing in a firefight during the WWII in Germany.

“We never knew what happened,” Loock said in a short telephone interview Wednesday from his family farm in Bangor, Pa. “It was always an uncertainty. We didn’t know if he would ever show up or something. It was one of those kinds of things.

Now 80, Loock was finally shut down over the summer when scientists used DNA, dental and anthropological analyzes, as well as circumstantial and material evidence to conclude that the remains found by German loggers seven years after the end of the war were those of Larry S. Wassil. .

The news that Wassil had been positively identified was bittersweet to Loock’s family as his only brother – a younger brother also named Larry – died aged 80 just weeks after hearing the news from his father.

“We were happy to have (closed),” said Loock, who said military personnel presented him with two of his father’s medals.

Loock said his father was a Bloomfield High School football star who went on to work cleaning oil barrels in Elizabeth before joining the US military. While Loock lived with her brother and mother in Nutley, she frequently spent time with her father, who still resided in the nearby town of Bloomfield.

Before enlisting in the military, Wassil and his girlfriend enjoyed playing golf together, his daughter said. She also recalled that her father’s girlfriend was pretty much the only person Loock knew at the time and the woman sometimes took pictures of her boyfriend’s children.

After 33-year-old Wassil disappeared at the end of 1944, he was often in her daughter’s thoughts.

“The bank right in the center of Bloomfield had pictures of the local military,” she said. “I would go there all the time and choose my dad’s picture.”

Wassil was leading a three-man reconnaissance team that searched for enemy positions near Bergstein when he disappeared, the US Department of Defense said. Wassil and the other two soldiers dispersed when the Axis forces began to fire at them.

While the other two men reunited, Wassil never returned and was declared missing on December 28, 1944. The War Department issued a verdict of presumed death on December 29, 1945. He joined the military in Fort Dix on March 5. 1942, said a spokesperson.

In December 1951, the American Graves Registration Command – tasked with investigating and attempting to recover American personnel who disappeared in Europe at the end of the war – declared Wassil unrecoverable. They had carried out several investigations in the Hürtgen area between 1946 and 1950, but were unable to recover or identify Wassil’s remains.

Decades later, a Defense historian POW / MIA Accounting Agency determined that a set of unidentified remains – designated X-9118 Griesheim Mausoleum – may have belonged to Wassil. The remains were found by German loggers near Bergstein and recovered by the AGRC in 1952.

The remains, which had been buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium, were exhumed in April 2019 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for examination in the hope of identifying them. .

Wassil was assigned to K Company, 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division.

Wassil’s name is inscribed on the walls of the fallen at the Dutch American Cemetery, a site of the United States Commission for Battle Monuments in Margraten, the Netherlands, along with the other World War II dead. A rosette will be placed next to its name to indicate that it has been taken into account.

Wassil will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in May, his daughter said. She plans to attend.

Loock married and had three children – two daughters and a son. She and her husband Donald Loock also have six grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and recently welcomed a great-grandson.

Loock’s son-in-law was injured while serving in Vietnam and is confined to a wheelchair, she said.

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