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Buffalo Soldier Identified Nearly 80 Years After Disappearing In Battle

Lemuel Dent Jr.'s remains, previously marked as 'unknown' in the Florence American Cemetery, were recently identified.

The remains of a Buffalo soldier have finally been identified after decades missing. Pfc. Lemuel Dent Jr. was part of the African-American 92nd Infantry Division for World War II when he died in battle.

Dent Jr. hailed from Charles County, Maryland, when he went missing after a February 1945 battle at the Cinquale Canal in northwest Italy. His remains, which amounted to half a body, were discovered three months later by the U.S. Army’s Graces Registration Service. However, limited technology left the remains, which lacked a chest, head, and arms, unidentified for over half a century.

It was not until nearly 80 years later that the missing soldier’s name resurfaced. Before this, his body was laid to rest as an “unknown” in the Florence American Cemetery. The Washington Post reports the 30-year-old remained one of 13 men lost that day. He currently hails as only the fourth of recovered names.

His body was exhumed from the grave in June 2022 for the forensic analysis that led to his identification. DNA from Dent Jr.’s thigh bone matched with his family’s samples, providing closure to the loved ones who lost him long ago.

Generals considered the battle against the Nazi German soldiers a failure. However, they failed to acknowledge that racially-motivated inept training was a significant factor.

Moreover, Dent Jr. was not the only soldier part of the Buffalo division deemed missing in action. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) launched a project to recover the lost names of 50 men.

“These individuals were serving in a segregated military, in which they were not treated as the other soldiers,” said forensic anthropologist Traci Van Deest at DPAA. “They were not treated with the same type of honor and respect.”

The division’s namesake derived from a cohort of Black American soldiers who served in the late 1800s. The 16th division project aims to recover all missing from the cohort’s last battle.

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