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Welcome home, Sergeant

There ain't no justice.  Sometimes, in war, you're just screwed. 

We're currently running an ad for a small "coupla guys in a garage" operation that riffs off the old soldier bromide of "Somewhere out there, there's a bullet with my name on it."  The corollary is, "That's not the bullet you need to worry about, it's the one addressed "To whom it may concen."  This is a story of that bullet.

Of an air crewman who dodged the bullets with his name on it over Germany, even if his Flying Fortress did not, and she was further unable to get her crew home, so they bailed out over Hungary.  And descended into the middle of a firefight between German and Soviet soldiers.

Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

Welcome home, Staff Sergeant Steinford.  If a bit late, at least you're home.
 

Airman Missing in Action From WWII Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Staff Sgt. Marvin J. Steinford, of Keystone, Iowa, will be buried on June 21 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On March 24, 1945, Steinford, along with nine other crew members, bailed out of their B-17G Flying Fortress bomber over Gic, Hungary. It had been hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire while on a bombing mission over Germany. Steinford and another crew member were struck by small arms fire while parachuting into a firefight between Soviet and German forces. The remains of the other crew member were found after the war where they had been buried by Hungarian villagers. The remaining eight members of the aircrew were captured by the Germans, held as POWs, and released at the end of the war.

According to accounts gathered by U.S. Army Graves Registration Service personnel in the late 1940s, Steinford's body was seen beside a German tank near Gic, but no further details about his exact whereabouts were recorded. Growing tensions in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe closed off further U.S. access to Hungary.

In January 2003, in an effort to develop archival leads in Hungary from the Vietnam War, Korean and Cold Wars and World War II, a U.S. commissioner with the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs met with Hungarian officials in Budapest. Additional follow-up in Hungary by a DPMO researcher began to uncover specific information related to Steinford's loss. A second DPMO staff member, assisted by Hungarian academics and researchers, discovered archives and interviewed villagers who related first-hand information about the B-17G crash. Shortly thereafter the U.S. Embassy in Budapest notified DPMO that a local cemetery director had information directly related to Steinford.

He related that during a 2004 excavation and transfer of Soviet soldiers' remains at a war memorial and grave site in the city of Zirc, Hungarian workers discovered remains with a set of identification tags that bore Steinford's name. The dog tags were removed and all remains were transferred to another site on the outskirts of Zirc. What was believed to be Steinford's remains were marked with the Hungarian word "Cedulas," [translation: the one with the tags] and reburied. The dog tags were returned to U.S. officials in March 2005.

From 2005 through late 2007, DPMO facilitated negotiations between U.S., Hungarian and Russian officials. Finally, in December 2007, the U.S. chairman of the commission secured agreement with the Russian first deputy minister of defense to allow a July 2009 exhumation from the war memorial site by specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC used dental comparisons in the identification of Steinford's remains.

At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans. Today, more than 73,000 are unaccounted-for from the conflict. 
 

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance: In Memoriam of Staff Sergeant Marvin Steinford, and through him, in memory of all those who still sleep in unmarked, unknown graves.  May your bones find their way home, and your story closed out with certitude.  

6 Comments

A month and a half before the end of the war, too.  Some guys just can't catch a break. 
 
 My Brother-in-Law was shot down over Polesti on D-Day, probably didn't even know of the invasion.  Had to wait over a year to be 'liberated'.
 
6 weeks before the end of the war, 43 days.  He managed to survive the bombing run, the crippling of his B-17,  and bailing out only to get killed by small arms fire in ground combat in the final few weeks of the war.

I read lots of stories similar to this, but for some reason this one bothered me more than most.

Sometimes life just really sucks.

 
 John,

Well done, SGT. Steinford, “Welcome Home from a grateful Nation.” 

Hungary is a strange place to begin with, their Capital is Budapest. Everybody thinks of Budapest is one city, but in reality, is actually two cities. You have Buda and Pest, divided by the Rhine River. When Hungary fell to Communism, the mayor of Budapest left the country and moved to this Country. The mayor left with his 4-year-old daughter. The mayor moved to a nearby town, at the time I heard this story, I had no knowledge of who she was, but she went to public schools including high school. I had the chance to meet her and hear the story of this strange country, but they were good people.

SGT. Steingford, R.I.P.

Grumpy

PS: This is the reason you never say, "I am coming unscrewed", especially if you are in the Military. You can bet the farm on this one, somebody will correct this oversight.
 
 
SSG Steinford, fellow Iowegian, welcome home, and may God rest your weary, wandering soul., at long last.
 
 Amen!