GULFPORT — A south Mississippi family has finally found answers to an eight-decade mystery.
The fate of Private Andrew Ladner, a soldier from Harrison County, has been unknown since he disappeared during World War II, during the Battle of Buna-Gona.
This month, the U.S. government announced that Ladner’s remains had been identified. The notification came from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, The Sun Herald reported.
In November 1942, Ladner was posted in the southeastern mountain jungles of what was then the Australian territory of New Guinea, fighting Japanese troops for control of the port of Buna, The Sun Herald reported. His unit’s mission was to cut off Japanese supply and communications lines from the nearby village of Sanananda.
Ladner was killed in action.
Ladner, a native of Lizana, Mississippi, was 30 at the time of his death, according to newspaper articles from the era. He had graduated from Perkinston Junior College, which is now Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
The American Graves Registration Service spent years combing the battle site for the bodies of American soldiers, but declared Ladner non-recoverable in 1950. It turned out, however, that Ladner’s remains had actually been found in April 1943 and buried at a temporary U.S. cemetery in the nearby village of Soputa. The still-unidentified remains were later moved to the Philippines and buried in another cemetery in 1949.
About 45 years later, in 1995, organizations dedicated to finding POW/MIA soldiers from World War II launched a new effort to identify men from the battle where Ladner went missing. A review of unknown casualty records prompted the exhumation of Ladner’s body — listed only by the number X-1545—in November 2016.
Then, new technologies including DNA analysis allowed researchers at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to identify the body.
A funeral will be held in Gulfport at an undetermined date, The Sun Herald reported.