The remains of a World War II Indiana paratrooper have been interred in his hometown 75 years after his death. Army Pfc. Clifford M. Mills, then 29, was reported missing in action Oct. 18, 1944, near Wyler and Zyfflich, Germany. He took part in Operation Market Garden, the invasion of the German-occupied Netherlands.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died in combat. There are 72,742 service members from World War II still unaccounted for.
After the war, the Army found no evidence that Mills had survived or been captured. He was from Troy, Indiana, in Perry County, and was a member of the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division.
Following the end of hostilities, the American Graves Registration Command of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps took on the task of investigating and recovering deceased and missing American service members. It recovered thousands of unknown sets of remains. One set, designated Unknown X-2566 Neuville, was recovered from an isolated grave near a downed glider.
The remains could not be identified and were buried as an unknown at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Hombourg, Belgium. Following thorough analyses of military records and graves registration documents, which suggested a strong association between X-2566 Neuville and Mills, the remains were disinterred in June 2017 for analysis.
To identify the remains, scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency used dental and anthropological analysis as well as mitochondrial DNA and circumstantial and material evidence. Mills was officially accounted for Jan. 29, 2019, by The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
“That’s when they started the process of trying to get him back to the United States,” said Mills’ niece, who asked that she not be identified by name. “It has been an honor to be able to take care of this and getting Uncle Clifford back to the United States where he belongs.”
The remains were returned to Zoercher-Gillick Funeral Home in Tell City, the county seat of Perry County, Indiana. His funeral was held there March 30. Burial followed at the Troy City Cemetery.
A nine-member 82nd Airborne honor guard traveled from Fort Bragg headquarters to render military funeral honors for Mills. Members of Mills’ family and Nowy van Hedel, a resident of the Netherlands who helped research Mills’ MIA case, were on hand.
Researcher van Hedel recently uploaded a video to YouTube showing a U.S. flag ceremony honoring Mills at the Margraten, Netherlands, American Cemetery and Memorial. It is Europe’s third largest war cemetery for unidentified soldiers who died in World War II. More than 8,300 soldiers are buried there. The graves have been adopted by locals, who attend them and lay flowers.
Van Hedel concluded a brief recollection of his 12 years of research into Pfc. Clifton Mills with a caption to the memorial video that says: “It took a lot of time, but he will be … buried next to his wife Ethel.”
Photo: Pfc. Clifford M. Mills