Figuring out the stays of WWII Indiana veterans by DNA
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be out of date. Please look at the timestamp on the history to see when it was last updated.
INDIANAPOLIS – Two families in Indiana now know what happened to their Hoosier heroes. Both died more than 75 years ago. You never expected that modern technology would reunite these families with their fallen soldiers.
“It’s just breathtaking. The emotions are very high right now,” said Kimberly Gardner, first-class private individual of the Marine Corps, Louis Weiesehan.
After nearly a lifetime of waiting, the Indiana family welcomes their honorable fallen naval home.
“We are very happy that this has now brought him back and clearly identified him as our family,” said Great Nephew Richard Weiesehan.
Marine Corps Private First Class Louis Weisehan died 77 years ago in World War II at the age of 20.
“He landed – he fought in Tarawa and that is – he died. And they never got his body back, ”Richard said.
Richmond native Weisehan lost his life on the second day of the battle. The native lost his November 21, 1943.
In 1946, officials began collecting the remains of soldiers and Marines killed in action to bring them back to the family. After decades of waiting, it never happened.
In 2014, an organization dedicated to the recovery of American service members located a cemetery containing the remains of 27 people killed in Tarawa. Louis was one of them.
“I remember driving my truck and I told my fiancé. You found Louis! That’s the last thing I expected, ”said Richard.
Officials used DNA from his great niece, Kimberly, to uniquely identify him. Kimberly never met him.
On September 17, the day he returned, she made sure that she was on the pavement with three generations of her family, waiting to honor her uncle’s sacrifice.
“When you see the plane disembark, it is just breathtaking to know that this is your loved one who has been missing for 77 years,” said Gardner.
It is similar with Suzanne Omtvedt, niece of the first-class Marine Corps Charles Miller from Albany. Miller died on the third day of the slaughter at the age of 19.
“We talked a bit about him, you know my mother and my grandmother,” said Omtvedt.
Suzanne was told that her uncle would not be recoverable.
Then the POW / MIA defense accounting agency reached out to Omtvedt last year after purchasing Ancestry.com kits for their daughters. Then they asked if she was a relative and if she would allow them to use their DNA to try and make a match.
Then, just before Memorial Day, she got the news.
“It was pretty amazing that they took the DNA from his thighbone, and it was like a 99% match. So it’s a miracle, ”said Omtvedt.
She was born two years after Millers’ death. Although she never knew her uncle, the artifacts now in her possession give a glimpse into the few days he spent on the battlefield.
“I think what really hit me was when I got the necklace, coins, and items from his body. It was overwhelming. How brave they were and how brave all soldiers are who spend their lives on us in America. It’s just amazing, ”said Omtvedt.
An emotional thank you not only to the deceased soldiers and marines, but also to the organizations working to bring together generations of families torn apart by the war.
“It packs it all up and puts it down, it finally puts it to rest – a peaceful rest,” said a Weisehan family member.
Weisehan was originally scheduled to be buried in April, but this was delayed until September due to COVID-19.
On October 23, Charles Miller, Private First Class, received full honors when he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Suggest a correction
Suggest a correction