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John Joseph Sitarzr
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
Photo first published in Weirton High School yearbook, Weirite, 1943

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


John Joseph Sitarzr

"The Huertgen Forest consisted of thick woodland, bare hilltops and deep gorges. In the fall and winter, heavy rain and snowfall and a lack of roads made it extremely difficult to penetrate, either by foot or in vehicles. . . . For the American G.I.s, the very name - with its first syllable, 'hurt' - became a byword for injury and death. To this day, hundreds of soldiers on both sides remain unaccounted for, and their remains continue to be found."

Europe Remembers website

U.S. Army Private First Class John Joseph Sitarz was born on June 7, 1925, in Weirton, Hancock County, West Virginia, to Joseph and Sophia (Sophie) Ciak Sitarz. According to data in the 1930 Federal Census, both Joseph and Sophia were born in Poland. Census records and Find A Grave postings show that Joseph and Sophia's family consisted of sons Stanley and John and daughters Anna (married name: Kosin), Laura (married name: Kolanko), Genevieve (married name: Poszywak), and Bernice (married name: Krayzel); all of these lived to adulthood and in fact lived long lives. Sadly, though, four other siblings of John died at an early age: Helen Josephine lived from 1920 through 1927, while Joseph Frank, Mary Sophia, and Theresa Irene (Tressie) lived only from 1924-1925, 1926-1927, and 1929-1930, respectively. The 1940 census lists Sophia as the head of household, as Joseph was deceased in 1933. Sophia lived on until 1970.
Sophia Ciak Sitarz. <i>Find A Grave</i> photo courtesy Peggy Rocchio

Sophia Ciak Sitarz. Find
A Grave
photo courtesy Peggy Rocchio

1943 was a banner year in the life of John Joseph Sitarz. He graduated from Weirton High School, registered for the draft on his eighteenth birthday, had found employment with Weirton Steel per his draft registration, and enlisted in the U.S. Army at Clarksburg on September 16.

By the fall of 1944, Pfc. Sitarz was assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. His unit was engaged in battle with German forces near Germeter, Germany, in the Huertgen Forest, where he was declared missing in action on November 2. At the time, reports indicated he had stepped on a landmine. The remains of Pfc. Sitarz could not be recovered because of the ongoing fighting, so in accordance with military protocol, his status was changed to killed in action on November 3 of the following year.

John Greenwood, Ph.D., Chief, Office of Medical History, Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Army/Headquarters, U.S. Army Medical Command, writing in 2007, offers a chilling statistical account of the Battle of Huertgen Forest:

28th Infantry Division troops advance through the Huertgen Forest in Germany on November 2, 1944, at the start of a long, bloody fight. National Archives photo by Pfc. G. W. Goodman, U.S. Army

28th Infantry Division troops advance through the Huertgen Forest in Germany on November 2, 1944, at the start of a long, bloody fight. National Archives photo by Pfc. G. W. Goodman, U.S. Army

The U.S. Army's fight to take the Huertgen Forest stretched from September into December 1944 when the German Ardennes offensive disrupted the entire Allied front. During these months, the battles of the V and VII Corps of the First U.S. Army became one of the most costly and controversial American operations of the entire European war. Eventually, the 1st, 4th, 8th, 9th, and 28th Infantry Divisions, 2d Ranger Battalion, and 46th Armored Infantry Battalion and Combat Command R, 5th Armored Division, were all heavily engaged in the fighting. The 9th Infantry Division was involved twice, once in September and then again in October, and its 47th Infantry Regiment was actually engaged three separate times. During its operations in early November in the area of Vossenack, Kommerscheidt, and Schmidt, known collectively as the battle of Schmidt, the 28th Infantry Division lost more men in the forest than any of the other divisions. The divisions suffered over 30,000 casualties in killed, wounded, missing in action, combat exhaustion, and to various disease and non-battle injuries. ("The Fight for Huertgen Forest," U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History, 7 March 2007, accessed 28 January 2021,

Rick Atkinson, writing for HistoryNet, details a more boots-on-the-ground version of the day Pfc. Sitarz lost his life:

At 9 a.m. on November 2, a cold, misty Thursday, GIs heaved themselves from their holes like doughboys going over the top. Eleven thousand artillery rounds chewed up German revetments and flayed the forest with steel from shells detonating in the tree canopy. But the brisk brrrr of machine-gun fire from pillboxes on the division's right flank mowed down men in the 110th Infantry Regiment - "singly, in groups, and by platoons," the division history recorded. By day's end the 110th had gained not a yard, and by week's end the regiment would be rated "no longer an effective fighting force."

The attack began no better for the 109th Regiment on the left flank. German sappers driving charcoal-fueled trucks had hauled enough mines from a Westphalian munitions plant to lay a dense field in a swale across the road from the village of Germeter to Hurtgen village. The 109th had advanced barely 300 yards when a sharp pop was followed by a shriek: a GI clutched his bloody foot. More pops followed, more shrieks, more maimed boys. After 36 hours the regiment would hold only a narrow, mile-deep salient into enemy territory, a salient almost mirrored by Germans infiltrating the U.S. ranks.

Against such odds, and to the surprise of American and German alike, the division's main attack won through in the center. A battalion from the 112th Infantry was pinned wriggling to the ground by enemy fire near the village of Richelskaul, but seven Shermans churned down the wooded slope from Germeter, each trailing clouds of infantrymen holding a rear fender and trotting in the tank tracks to avoid mines. The Shermans fired four rounds apiece to dismember the church steeple in the town of Vossenack and any snipers hidden in the belfry, and 200 white-phosphorus mortar shells set the village ablaze. One block wide and 2,000 yards long, Vossenack straddled a saddleback two miles from Schmidt, visible through the haze to the southeast. Soft ground, mines, and panzerfaust volleys wrecked five Shermans, but before noon burning Vossenack belonged to [Major General Norman "Dutch"] Cota's men, who burrowed into the northeast nose of the ridgeline. (Read more at "The Hurtgen Forest 1944: The Worst Place of Any," accessed 22 June 2021,

John J. Sitarz was memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium.

The story of John J. Sitarz does not end here. An analysis of remains in the years 1946 through 1951 continued to declare him non-recoverable. But, in 2018, the story takes a different turn. The following account is from a press release and his Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency profile:

Following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command was tasked with investigating and recovering missing American personnel in Europe. They conducted several investigations in the Huertgen area between 1946 and 1950 but were unable to recover or identify Sitarz's remains. He was declared non-recoverable in 1951.

While studying unresolved American losses in the Huertgen area, a DPAA historian determined that one set of unidentified remains, designated X-2785 Neuville, recovered from a minefield west of Germeter in 1946 possibly belonged to Sitarz. The remains, which had been buried in Ardennes American Cemetery in 1949, were disinterred in 2018 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for identification.

To identify Sitarz's remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

Interestingly, while it was initially recorded that Pfc. Sitarz had stepped on a landmine, the DPAA analysis determined that the soldier had been killed by multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

Sitarz's name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) site in Hombourg, Belgium, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Sitarz will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, at a date yet to be determined.

With the passing of his brother Stanley in 2018 (he lived to be 101!), no siblings of John J. Sitarz remain. Rest in peace, Pfc. Sitarz. You will be remembered at the Veterans Memorial in your state capital as well as in Arlington National Cemetery, where you deserve to reside. It is hoped that members of your extended family will find comfort in bringing you home.

Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure
June 2021


John Joseph Sitarz

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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