The final chapter of a 79-year quest to identify a soldier killed in World War II and bring him home for a proper burial

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 7:03 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD-BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) - It took almost eight decades to get him back on American soil and identified so his family members could give him a memorial service and burial.

Moses Tate was an unknown soldier from the time he was killed on August 1, 1943, until he was identified on July 12. On Thursday, the 23-year-old casualty of World War II was finally laid to rest at Springfield’s Missouri Veterans Cemetery following a memorial service at the Branson Lutheran Church.

Around 60 mourners, including 21 relatives, attended what Pastor Joel Krueger called a very unique service.

“This is the first time I’ve done a funeral for someone that nobody (in attendance) has ever met,” he said.

“I just wish that some of his brothers and sisters were still here,” said Geneva Janovsky, Tate’s oldest remaining niece, who decided the service would take place in Branson. But relatives came from all over the country, including nieces Roxie Snethen from Nebraska and Jean Tate from Minnesota.

“My dad was 11 years old when Moses passed,” Jean said.

“My dad was three,” Roxie said.

Jean and Roxie didn’t know a lot about their uncle except that he came from a big family with 11 other brothers and sisters.

They also knew that he had died in World War II, but it’s only been in the past several years that they’ve learned the entire story, with the official version here from the U.S. Army Human Resources Command:

A native of Seneca, Kansas, Staff Sgt. Moses F. Tate was assigned to the 415th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bombardment Group, and 9th Air Force. He was serving as a gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator aircraft Aug. 1, 1943, when it crashed after being hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire during Operation TIDAL WAVE, the largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania.

His remains were not identified following the war. Remains that could not be identified were buried as Unknowns in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery of Bolovan, Ploiesti, Prahova, Romania.

Following the war, the American Graves Registration Command disinterred all American remains from the Bolovan Cemetery for identification but was unable to identify more than 80 unknowns. Those remains were permanently interred at Ardennes American Cemetery and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, both in Belgium.

In 2017, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began exhuming unknowns believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen from Operation TIDAL WAVE losses. These remains were sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for examination and identification.

Tate was accounted for by the DPAA on July 12 after his remains were identified using circumstantial evidence as well as dental, anthropological, mitochondrial DNA, Y chromosome DNA, and autosomal DNA analysis.

Tate’s relatives couldn’t thank the military enough for all they went through to identify Moses and get him home.

“For us as a family, we just want to encourage others that if you have someone who went missing in the military to volunteer to do the DNA sampling,” Jean said. “Our aunt Thelma was the one who really spearheaded getting our family members to donate DNA.”

“She was the one who originally turned in her DNA and got other family members involved,” added Geneva. “If it hadn’t been for aunt Thelma we wouldn’t have him. Unfortunately, Thelma just passed in the last couple of years, but she came close to being here.”

“It’s been sad and happy,” Roxie replied when asked if the day was bittersweet because of all the family members who didn’t live to find out what happened to Moses. “If our dads were alive, they would be here. But since they aren’t, I felt it was an honor to be here for my dad to show support.”

“What’s helpful for us is we’re learning more about him and his time in the service and how he passed because of this,” Jean added. “But our parents never knew that. And they always wondered.”

Tate was given full-military honors, including a Patriot Guard motorcycle escort with riders coming from Columbia, Warsaw, and Mexico, Missouri.

“It’s just hard to imagine for the family what it’s been like to take that long,” said Dale York, a member of the group from Columbia. “So we’re honored and proud to get the opportunity to help take him home.”

It was Geneva’s husband, Roger, who best put the day in perspective.

“I’m a Vietnam veteran who came home from the Air Force, and the treatment and reception we got wasn’t anything like uncle Moses got,” he said. “So it’s very humbling. And to everybody out there who likes to complain about the government, and I know there’s a lot of you out there, I want to tell you that your government went to the trouble of finding the remains of somebody who was killed 79 years ago. And they brought him home.”

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