World War II soldier's remains brought back to Jackson County 72 years after his death
RIPLEY, WV (WCHS/WVAH) —
Clarence Dragoo left Jackson County, West Virginia for war at the age of 21.
He died overseas fighting in World War II and his family have been waiting since 1945 to hear what happened to him.
Now they know, and will soon get to say their final farewell.
"He left here with the intentions of coming home, wanting to come home,” his Great-Niece C.C. VanFossen said, “and now we get to bring him back to his soil."
His great nieces said Dragoo's plane went down returning from a bombing run in Italy and sank to the bottom of the Adriatic Sea, killing him and 10 others.
It wasn't until 2013, when an Italian diver found the plane, that American divers were able to recover human remains.
"Lo and behold a few days later the army sends me a DNA sample," VanFossen said.
Over the course of four years the army was able to match several samples to cross sections of skull.
72 years later, Dragoo was coming home.
"After 72 years, who would have thought," VanFossen said.
Dragoo’s Great-Niece-In-Law Belinda Staats said the Ripley community has rallied around this story and are planning a mass patriotic display along Route 21 from his funeral to his final burial plot in Sandyville.
"He does have a younger sister who's waited her entire lifetime for her best friend to come home."
West Virginia National Guard representatives said this is the motto “no man left behind” in action. Dragoo's family said the lesson is never giving up hope.
"I wish my grandmothers were here to see this,” VanFossen said, "The whole world needs something positive in the media, and this is a positive story."
Dragoo will have a full military service will be held at Waybright Funeral home in Ripley on October, 14th. Visitation begins at 9 a.m. and the funeral will be at 11 a.m.
Burial will be directly after the service at Independence Cemetery in Sandyville.