By Mark Maroney
HUGHESVILLE – A World War II veteran killed in action 75 years ago, but whose remains were not identified until last year by forensic tests, will be returned home and given a proper burial with full military honors.
James I. Trick, a 25-year-old Army private killed by German shrapnel in the Hurtgen Forest, near Germeter, Germany, on Nov. 4, 1944, will be returned for burial at Pleasant Hill Cemetery on Sept. 28, according to the U.S. Army and family.
“He has a stone with his name on it,” said Dorothea Harding, a niece, from Sicklerville, New Jersey, who said she plans to attend the ceremony at the cemetery on a hill that overlooks his hometown and eastern Lycoming County.
Following the war, efforts were made to retrace where Trick might have died in battle. Remains were located, but could not be positively identified with technology available in 1948.
Trick was interred at a cemetery in the Netherlands and only last year the body was removed for forensic tests, which proved to be positive, according to Army officials.
Trick’s name remains on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Margraten, Netherlands, along with others missing from the war.
Trick’s grave was meticulously tended to for 70 years. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Harding, the oldest surviving relative, said her uncle was a 1936 graduate of Hughesville High School and excelled on the school basketball team.
In fact, one of his friends told about his uncle’s gasoline station and car garage on Third Street. He also went with Trick to a basketball game at Montgomery, and said that was the last he’d seen him alive.
While in the forest, which combatants considered a “death factory” and Germans labled “the Green Hell,” Trick was with Company M, Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. He was bringing supplies back to his machine gun that he was manning when he became one of 30,000 casualties in the battle, according to the Army.
The forest was an entry point for the Allied forces into the Rhineland.
Modern science helped to positively identify the soldier, according to Jeannette Gray, a mortuary officer handling the burial procedure.
In June 2018, the Department of Defense and American Battle Monuments Commission disinterred and accessioned the remains to a laboratory for identification. His identity was confirmed July 2019.
Using dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System were able to positively identify Trick, who is among the soldiers memorialized at Veterans Memorial Park in Williamsport.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.
To this day, 72,674 service members remain unaccounted for from World War II, of which about 30,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable.