Private First Class Lawrence S. Gordon

Did the remains of Lawrence S. Gordon end up in a crypt in Normandy? His family expects to learn the truth soon. (Courtesy Gordon family)

A man trying to repatriate his soldier uncles's body home to Saskatchewan is angered by a letter mistakenly released by the U.S. military.

It's the latest twist in the story Private Lawrence S. Gordon, a former Eastend resident who died in France in World War II fighting in the ranks of the U.S. Army. Gordon disappeared after being killed in action in 1944.

Lawrence R. Gordon, a nephew who bears the same name, says he and his family have been looking for answers ever since. 

Earlier this year, after mounting a search on their own, the Gordon's received the results of French government DNA tests. They proved their relative had been mistakenly buried in a German war grave.

Prior to that, though, the Gordon family had a strained relationship with the U.S. government agency tasked with finding missing U.S. soldiers, the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Command (J-PAC).

In an email last year J-PAC rejected the family's appeal for help — and rejected a further request to explain why they wouldn't help.

It was in that second email, to a Gordon family researcher named Jed Henry, that a J-PAC official made a fundamental error.

The man from J-PAC mistakenly attached a document explaining internal concerns in his organization about the Gordon family's request

The seven-page letter, first published on March 20 on the widely-read American news website The Daily Beast, recites a litany of problems in helping out the Canadian family searching for their loved one.

J-PAC was concerned about whether they had the jurisdiction to re-open a case involving a Canadian national fighting in the U.S. Army, about the accuracy of the documents presented to them by the Gordon family, the impact this case would have on thousands of other similar cases and more. 

As a result, J-PAC did nothing.

Five months later the Gordon family, with French and German government help, opened a war grave in Normandy. The samples collected last September proved Private Gordon's identity when DNA test results were revealed this winter.

Reflecting this week on the mistakenly released letter, Lawrence R. Gordon says, "It was infuriating at the time and it still is."

"It was an attempt to bury this particular file. It appears…J-PAC spent more time finding reasons not to act than they spent acting."

In a statement released by J-PAC on March 20 a spokesman wrote, "We remain committed to the fullest possible accounting of our missing and unknown service members."

She then alluded to a reform ordered by the Obama government in response to many families' complaints abut J-PAC's failure to find their loved ones.

"This is why Secretary Hagel has directed Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Michael Lumpkin to provide him a plan to better organize the Department's personnel accounting community." 

"This will include a proposal to increase the number of missing we account for."

Meanwhile, at a solemn ceremony on June 10 at the German war cemetery at Mont d'Huisines, France, the body of PFC Lawrence S. Gordon will be turned over to his nephew.

Lawrence S. Gordon will then be flown to the United States for a second and final round of genetic testing previously agreed upon at the University of Wisconsin.

From there Private Gordon will be taken home to Saskatchewan for burial in Eastend, scheduled for August 13, the 70th anniversary of his death.

His nephew would like to reach an agreement with the American government that would allow the official U.S. Army  to hold a funeral that his family desires.

But it will have to be on Lawrence R. Gordon's terms. 

He wants the Americans to accept the research his family has arranged up until now, including the genetic tests.

"The U.S. Government can help us with the arrangements, if they want to," says Gordon.

"But we're going to get this done, with or without them."

Sean Prpick