WWII soldier returns to Wisconsin after years-long search

Remains to be studied at UW, then buried by family in Canada
WWII soldier returns to Wisconsin after years-long search
PFC Gordon

It was a motorcade rooted in history, and the end of an overseas journey for Pfc. Lawrence Gordon.

The soldier’s nephew, named after his long lost uncle, said he and the others who didn’t stop searching overcame a number of obstacles to bring Pfc. Gordon home.

“I’m very grateful. I’m tired, but extremely relieved and happy,” Gordon said. “Every step of the way we’ve made progress, we’ve moved the matter along, and every time we’ve needed something it’s just fallen into place. It’s been an incredible experience that way.”

Two and a half years ago, Gordon got a call from Jed Henry. The Middleton man told Gordon his grandfather had served in the same unit as grandfather, Pfc. Gordon.

Gordon said he always assumed his uncle was buried in another cemetery at one of the unidentified graves. However, years of digging and reviewing countless records matched Pfc. Gordon with the body of an unknown German soldier in France.

After DNA testing at UW Hospital and a French crime lab, the mislabeled remains were identified as Pfc. Gordon with a 99.995 percent chance that body was related to the living Lawrence Gordon.

Henry, Gordon and others traveled to Europe to bring back Gordon’s uncle. Gordon said officials overseas had to create new protocol for the ceremony of turning over his relative’s remains because such a situation had never happened before.

Wednesday night the procession was lined with honor guard members and military supporters. Red, white and blue decorated the UW Hospital parking lot where Pfc. Gordon’s remains were handed over to forensic scientists.

In their brand new facility, those scientists will now study what’s left of the soldier’s body and try to determine how he may have died in Normandy.

“It’s the unknown that makes it exciting. The journey or the search, and it makes it exciting,” UW forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Corliss said.

“Is there anything they can tel usl about that would lead us to any conclusions about the death?” Gordon said. “And that’s really what we’re most interested in now.”

Once any conclusions are drawn from his remains Pfc. Gordon’s family plans to bring him back up to Canada and finally lay him to rest.

“It still provides closure for a family. It closes the circle,” Gordon said.

Henry is chronicling his two and a half year search for Pfc. Gordon and plans to produce a documentary on the search.