Gerald M Kight
3rd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne
Home Our Hero, Click photo below:
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The 3 Dutch Men
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|J2 REPORT: JPAC Incident 826, CIL 2011-116
Groesbeek, Gelderland Province, Kingdom of the Netherlands
28 September 1944
JPAC J2 (INTELLIGENCE) DIRECTORATE
2 December 2011
Name Service Number Rank Branch of Service Date of Loss Status
KIGHT, Gerald W. 39179582 Pfc USA 28 Sep 44 KIA-BNR
In September 2011, The Royal Netherlands Army’s Recovery and Identification Unit
recovered two sets of apparent human remains on a farm between Groesbeek, The Netherlands
and Wyler, Germany. One set of remains bore identification tags for Private First Class (Pfc)
Gerald W. KIGHT (39179582), a member of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd
Airborne Division. The site correlates to the area held by the 82nd Airborne Division during
Operation Market Garden in late September 1944. Historical data allows for a list of 39
individuals, including Pfc KIGHT, who may be associated with remains recovered in the area.
In September 1944, British and American forces attempted a massive airborne invasion of
the German-controlled Netherlands. Codenamed “Market Garden,” the operation aimed to
bypass the well-defended Siegfried Line, enter Germany, and capture the Ruhr Valley industrial
center. The mission liberated much of the Netherlands and established important bridgeheads,
although it failed in its ultimate aim of forcing an early German surrender. Operation Market
Garden inflicted 11,850 Allied casualties, including 2,118 for the United States Army’s 82nd
The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne, dropped into the vicinity of
Nijmegen on 17 September 1944 (see Figure 1). After several days securing areas along the
Waal River to the south of its drop zone, the 504th moved east to an area between Groesbeek and
Wyler. Private First Class Gerald W. KIGHT (39179582), a member of Headquarters Company,
3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, participated in this action
On 28 September 1944, Pfc KIGHT was attached to G Company and was helping to man a
machine gun position on the left flank of I Company in an area northeast of Groesbeek. German
forces attacked at dawn with significant tank support, overrunning the American position. All of
the Americans, save one, were killed or captured. The lone survivor stated that he had last seen
Pfc KIGHT “severely wounded,” and that his position was near “a group of houses eight hundred
yards southwest of Vossendal.” Investigators concluded that Pfc KIGHT had either been killed
or captured, though none of the American POWs recalled seeing him after the battle. Extensive
postwar searches of the towns and villages around Nijmegen failed to locate his remains. As a
result, the Office of the Quartermaster General changed his status to Killed in Action on
29 September 1945, setting the date of death as 28 September 1944, the day he was last seen.3
Private First Class KIGHT’s name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands
In September 2011, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) learned that the
Royal Netherlands Army’s Recovery and Identification Unit (RIU) had recovered two sets of
remains in a corn field along the Wylerbaan Road between the Dutch town of Groesbeek and the
German village of Wyler (Figures 2 and 3). The first set, found on 8 September, was “buried
face down in a rather shallow grave” that may have been a shell crater. The second, recovered
100 meters to the southwest on 12 September, was apparently “lying on his back with his knees
up in his fox hole,” which the RIU believed may have been a machine gun placement. The
second set of remains also bore identification tags for Pfc Gerald W. KIGHT
In notifying JPAC about the case, the RIU noted that the place name “Vossendal,” where the
surviving American recalled last seeing Pfc KIGHT, is likely referencing the Vossendaal farm,
which lay along the Wylerbaan Road near the recovery site. That property is now a corn field.
There is no other place name similar to “Vossendal” in the immediate area.5
A JPAC Field Forensic Review Team visited the Netherlands in October 2011 and took
custody of the two sets of remains from the RIU. On 27 October 2011, the Central Identification
Laboratory (CIL) accessioned the remains found with Pfc KIGHT’s identification tags as
CIL 2011-116, and the other remains as CIL 2011-119. Based on the data provided by the RIU,
the JPAC World War II Research and Investigations Section compiled a list of units that fought
in the recovery area and created a “short list” of missing individuals from those units (see
The JPAC World War II Section has compiled a list of39 individuals still missing from these
units. Any remains found in the area of the RIU recovery are likely to be associated with an
individual on this list, which includes the name ofPfc KIGHT (see Appendix). There is also the
remote possibility, however, that the remains are additional portions of one of the 259 recovered
individuals from these units.
In summary, the geographical location ofthe September 2011 recovery correlates with the
area in which Pfc KIGHT was last seen. The presence of an identification tag with one set of
remains strengthens the correlation, but the possibility still exists that the remains are those of
another soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division lost during Operation Market Garden.
|From The Oregonian oregonlive.com
World War II soldier Gerald 'Mike' Kight's remains returned, almost 68 years after he died in battle
Published: Tuesday, May 01, 2012, 5:30 PM Updated: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 9:23 AM
By Mike Francis, The Oregonian
For years, the family of Gerald "Mike" Kight has wondered: What happened to the handsome 23-year-old who went to war with his three brothers and one brother-in-law, but never came home? He lives on in old photographs and family lore, but he disappeared following a battle along Wylerbaan Road in the Netherlands, between Groesbeek and the little town of Wyler, Germany, in World War II. He was one of 39 Americans who were never found following clashes in the area with German troops in late September 1944.
The mystery, at last, will be laid to rest at West Klickitat Cemetery in White Salmon, Wash., on May 19, following a noontime memorial service at Gardner Funeral Home.
Operation Market Garden was a setback for the Allied troops, which lost almost 12,000 soldiers in a series of engagements intended to capture Germany's Ruhr Valley. The Allies succeeded in driving the Germans out of the Netherlands, but failed to strike the decisive blow that might have ended the war.
Thanks now to the detective work of the Defense Department's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and the Army's Past Conflict Repatriation Branch at Fort Knox, Ky., Kight's descendants know something about his place in those momentous events.
A Dutch farmer was turning the soil in his cornfield last September when he saw bones jutting from the ground. That brought out the Royal Netherlands Army's Recovery and Identification Unit, which unearthed two sets of human bones, in what apparently were two depressions about 100 yards apart.
The remains in one depression, which may have been formed when a shell landed in the battle, were so fragmentary and so incomplete that they haven't yet been identified. The remains in the foxhole were more complete. They belonged to a man lying on his back with his knees elevated -- and they rested with the dog tags of Gerald Kight.
"This was an easy one," said Michael Mee, chief of identification for the Past Conflict Repatriation Branch. A single set of remains in a single foxhole, with dog tags, a partial jaw and a wallet meant that no DNA match was necessary.
The Accounting Command report said Pfc. Kight, who belonged to the Headquarters Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, was among those killed when German tanks overran the American position. Every American but one was killed or captured in that battle, and Kight was apparently firing from his foxhole. The single survivor told investigators afterward he saw Kight "severely wounded."
The Army's search for next of kin led to a phone call to the Southeast Portland home of Frances and Robert Hembree. The series of questions made her suspicious.
"I was pretty leery," said Frances Hembree, 70, Kight's niece. "I was thinking, 'Is this a scam?' There are so many scams."
But over time, she understood the reason for the call. And that brought Mee and a casualty assistance officer from the Oregon National Guard to the Hembrees' doorstep. Mee was carrying neatly labeled plastic bags, each with something found in the foxhole. Two small wallets, a tin of "wound pills" in a case marked "Upjohn" and the dog tags, three of them.
Frances Hembree is the oldest of five extended family members connected to Gerald Kight. She is the only one old enough to have shared an embrace with him. She has a photo of the tall, slender blond man holding a toddler in the shade of a tree. The toddler is she.
She was also very close to her grandmother, Gerald's mother. Until she died about 20 years ago, she talked about how she missed being able to bury her son.
"My grandma always said he will come home one day," Hembree said, her eyes filling. "I'm the one who's supposed to be here to take him home."
So on May 19 at the cemetery in White Salmon, the cremated remains of Gerald Kight will be buried with full military honors alongside the remains of his mother and father and one of his brothers.
"I'm not a buff of any kind about the wars," Hembree said. "But I guess now I'm rather proud of my relatives who did go and fight for us.
|From The Oregonian oregonlive.com
Gerald 'Mike' Kight rejoins his family almost 68 years after his death in World War II
Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 9:33 PM Updated: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 10:53 PM
By Mike Francis, The Oregonian
WHITE SALMON, Wash. -- Flags snapped, an honor guard fired three volleys and three World War II-era spotting planes flew the missing man formation as the ashes of Gerald "Mike" Kight were laid to rest Saturday afternoon in this cemetery in the Columbia Gorge. After almost 68 years away from home, his ashes joined the remains of a mother who never lost hope he would be found.
"She always, always said 'He will come home one day,' and she never lost sight of that thought," said Frances Hembree of Portland, Mike Kight's niece and the last living relative who had contact with him. "We feel privileged to bring him home."
His ashes were contained in a gold-colored urn, which was buried with ceremonial coins, carnatians and tulips sent from the three men who found Kight's bones in a cornfield in the Netherlands.
About 45 members of the Patriot Guard Riders joined about 70 family members and friends for Saturday's services that, however belatedly, honored the service and sacrifice of a young man who never came home from World War II.
The ceremonies closed a circle almost 68 years around. Kight fought with 3rd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. His regiment took heavy losses in the fighting that saw it capture Nijmegen bridge over the Waal near Groesbeek, close to the German border. But the larger Market Garden offensive faltered when the Allies failed to capture Arnheim to the north and were driven back. This action gave the title to the book and movie "A Bridge Too Far."
"Mike" Kight's long journey home started last fall in a farmer's field near Groesbeek. A 33-year-old Dutchman named Paul Geutjes was scanning the field with his two friends, Mario Wijnhoven and Rick Hermsen. Their hobby was hunting with metal detectors for evidence of the World War II fighting that raged there during Operation Market Garden.
"In Mike's case, we found shells and a .30 ammo box," Geutjes wrote by email. "After that we found a small neck bone and after seeing the upper leg, we realized this was a field grave. Stunned, we stopped digging and informed the Dutch Army and police. They professionally excavated the remains."
That's when the searchers found Kight's dog tags and other belongings that clearly identified him as the missing 23-year-old from White Salmon. He had been killed when German tanks overran the American position in a rout that left only one uncaptured survivor. That survivor later said he saw Kight severely wounded, but still firing. The chaplain at Saturday's burial said Kight's bones were found with 150 spent shell casings -- and no unspent rounds.
The Dutch searchers notified the Defense Department's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which notified the Army's Past Conflict Repatriation Branch, which traced Kight's family tree and then got in touch with Frances Hembree of Southeast Portland to see if she was, indeed, "Mike" Kight's closest surviving relative.
It was a startling discovery for Hembree, who treasures a picture of her uncle Mike holding her under the shade of a tree when she was 2 years old. She grew up knowing of her grandmother's ache for her missing son. And she and her husband Robert and "Mike" Kight's other, younger nieces have been through an emotional whirlwind since the news arrived.
The news of Mike's recovery is "a sign that prayers are answered," said another niece, Peggy Jo Kight Vermaas of Beaverton. And she said she and the Kight family are mindful that the story of Mike Kight is also the story of many others. Some 73,000 U.S. troops remain missing since World War I, the chaplain noted.
One of Mike Kight's nieces is Sharon, who lives in Brussels with her husband, Mike Dolan. When they got word, they rushed to the field where Kight's remains were found. Being there, Dolan wrote, "meant a lot to my wife."
Mike and Sharon Dolan weren't in White Salmon Saturday, but they will attend this year's annual Memorial Day service at the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten. Mike Kight's name is listed on the Tablets of the Missing, Mike Dolan said. Soon, a rosette will be added to his name, showing that he has been recovered and returned to his family.
The rosette closes a long-held family mystery with a spot of color and a note of grace. And it helps to seal the friendship between America and the Dutch who remember how they fought and died in an effort to free them from the Germans' repression.
"I'm happy that the family can have a proper funeral," wrote Geutjes, "and Mike can finally rest in peace in his homely ground."