FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The remains of a soldier killed during World War II will be interred at Fort Smith National Cemetery this month, a press release announced.
U.S. Army Pvt. John P. Cooper was born in Athens, Texas, and eventually became assigned to Company B of the 778th Tank Battalion as a crew member of an M4 Sherman tank.
According to the release, Cooper’s unit was battling German forces near Lampagden, Germany on March 7, 1945 when his tank was struck by an enemy shoulder-fired rocket. Witnesses reportedly saw Cooper escape from the tank but he was never seen or heard from again.
Though he was declared missing in action, the Germans never reported him as a prisoner of war. Having no evidence Cooper survived the fighting, the War Department issued a presumptive finding of death for him March 8, 1946. He was 37 years old.
The release adds, following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command conducted several investigations in the Pellingen area between 1946 and 1950 but was unable to recover or identify Cooper’s remains. He was declared non-recoverable in October 1951.
However, while studying unresolved American losses in the Lampaden area, a historian with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency determined that one set of unidentified remains, designated X-562 Hamm, recovered near Steinbach, Germany, in 1945, possibly belonged to Cooper.
The remains, which had been buried in Luxembourg American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Hamm, Luxembourg, were disinterred in July 2021 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for identification.
Cooper was successfully identified by the DPAA on June 21, 2022, using circumstantial evidence as well as dental, anthropological, mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA analysis.
Graveside services for Ptv. Cooper will be performed by Edwards Funeral Home, preceding the interment at 11 a.m. on Oct. 21.