HUNTSVILLE — A Scott County man who was killed in action in World War II is being returned home for proper burial.
The U.S. Dept. of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency on Tuesday announced that Army Pfc. Oliver Jeffers, of Huntsville, will be buried in his hometown on October 7.
The Dept. of Defense had previously announced, on April 27, that Jeffers’ remains had been accounted for. He had been missing, but presumed dead, since November 1944.
The 31-year-old Jeffers entered the U.S. Army and served in Company L of the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. On November 10, 1944, his platoon held a position near Lendersdorf, Germany, in the Hürtgen Forest, when the platoon came under heavy enemy attack and was forced to withdraw. Jeffers was killed in action, but his body was not recovered due to the ongoing fighting.
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was one of a series of fierce battles fought between American and German forces along the Western Front during the war. Located along the Belgian-German border, the forest was the stage for the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought.
There were at least 33,000 Americans killed or wounded at the Hürtgen Forest, and some estimates range as high as 50,000.
Jeffers and his fellow soldiers encountered terrible conditions in the rugged forest — a conifer forest too dense for tanks or other vehicles to penetrate it. Their goal was to trek through the forest and reach the Rur Dam. The weather that fall was wet and cold, and the ground muddy.
Inside the forest, American troops encountered heavily-entrenched German forces with improvised blockhouses, minefields, barbed wire and booby traps hidden in the mud and snow.
The battle was entering its third month when Jeffers was killed. Fighting continued until December 16, 1944, when it finally ended in a German victory.
The battle was depicted by a 1998 HBO film, When Trumpets Fade.
The discovery of Jeffers’ jacket helped researchers draw a potential association between him and an unknown set of remains that had been recovered near the town of Hürtgen.
Jeffers’ remains were recovered from a minefield in 1946, but not identified. He was buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in 1950, and remained there until April 2018, when his remains were disinterred and sent to a laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for identification.
To identify his remains, scientists used dental and anthropological analysis.
Jeffers’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery, an American battle monument in Margarten, Netherlands, 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.
While Jeffers’ remains have been buried elsewhere, he has a gravesite at Fairview Memorial Gardens. He was the son of Dan Jeffers and Syrinda Foster Jeffers. He had four sisters: Effie Jeffers, Edna Jeffers Massey, Eva Jeffers Murley and Golda Bell Jeffers Smallwood. The last member of his immediate family, Edna Massey, died in 2005.