When the remains of Johnnie Bates (23 AIB, 7AD) were recovered from the Moselle River in France, another set of remains of a 7AD man were also recovered. However, those remains could not be identified and thus were assigned the designation as Unknown X-46 of the temporary US Military Cemetery at Hamm, Luxembourg.
Because of the condition of the remains of X-46, his fingerprints and hair and eye color could not be determined. Body measurements were taken, including the shoe size. But all of the teeth had fallen out of the jaw by the time the remains reached the cemetery, so that no dental chart could be made by the Graves Registration team, whose training only allowed them to record teeth in place. He was then buried in Section T, Row 8, Grave 200 of the temporary cemetery. (Johnnie Bates was buried in T-9-201.)
When the permanent Hamm, Luxembourg, US Military Cemetery was created, the remains of X-46 had still not been identified. So he was buried 16 Feb 1949 in a grave marked as Unknown, in Section C, Row 6, Grave 5. Here he has rested, unidentified, to this day.
In September 2011, Navy Commander Renee Richardson, then of the Defense POW-MIA Office (DPMO), reviewed the Hamm X-46 file and realized that the identity of X-46 had been narrowed to 11 men in a 23 Apr 1945 memorandum from Headquarters 7th Armored Division, stating "It is the opinion of this headquarters that Unknown X-46 is undoubtedly one of the enlisted men listed ..." Commander Richardson had been working with 7th Armored Division Association Historian Wesley Johnston since 2010 on a different 7AD case. So she forwarded the Hamm X-46 file to him, to see if his knowledge of the events and the units and his contacts with veterans could help to identify Hamm X-46.
Commander Richardson was transferred to the Pentagon in October 2011, so that the files that Wesley Johnston needed had to be requested through normal channels. This unfortunately took until February 2014 before he had received all of the files -- some of them through other MIA researchers who had the files, since the normal channels never did provide all of the necessary files. It is quite likely that some of the survivors who could have answered questions about this case passed away in the years that Wesley Johnston had to wait for those files, taking to their graves answers about which we can only make educated conclusions from indirect evidence. The cost of delay is a very real and irrecoverable loss.
All of the men on the list of 11 candidates were members of the 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion of 7th Armored Division. They were killed in the combat and withdrawal from a bridgehead that was destroyed by German forces, so that on the night of 11-12 Sep 1944 they had to withdraw back across the Moselle River after 4 days under cover of darkness, using a rope stretched across the river to allow the men to pull themselves hand over hand through the rain-swollen current. Some of the men were swept away and drowned. Attempts to bring back remains of the dead turned out to be impossible in most cases, since the survivors had to struggle for their own lives to cross the river.
Finally, in February 2014, Wesley Johnston had determined that 9 of the 11 men on the original list had been accounted for after the war. Thus only two men were left as candidates: Staff Sergeant James W. Crawford of Company C who had been killed 8 Sep 1944 and Private First Class William F. Halloran of Company C who was listed as MIA as of 11 Sep 1944 but whose file revealed had been killed 9 Sep 1944.
The physical measurements of both men were within the range of error, since the actual height and weight of X-46 could only be estimated from his remains. The shoe size of William Halloran was a near-perfect match, but the shoe size of James Crawford was still close enough that a limited shoe supply could have made it possible for him to have to wear a half-size smaller shoe, although no evidence of such a hypothetical shoe supply shortage is known. The bottom line for the measurements was that while they most closely matched William Halloran, they could not rule out James Crawford.
Thus consideration of the dental charts was necessary. About 1947, someone with more expertise than the Graves Registration burial team attempted to fit the teeth of Hamm X-46 back into the jaw in order to make a dental chart. The front four teeth on both upper and lower jaws were missing completely. But a dental chart was made from the reconstruction of the teeth in the jaw. So there was a dental chart with which to compare X-46 to both Crawford and Halloran. But this was beyond the expertise of Wesley Johnston. So he sought expert help.
Wesley Johnston provided the records of Hamm X-46 and of Crawford and Halloran to a dental forensics expert and an expert on identification of remains. These were done independently, without either expert knowing of the examination being done by the other. Both experts ruled out Crawford and said, each in their own careful way, that William F. Halloran could not be ruled out as a match for Hamm X-46, so that it was most likely that Hamm X-46 is William F. Halloran.
Thus of the 11 men on the list of those who "undoubtedly" included X-46, there is in fact only one candidate remaining -- William F. Halloran -- a candidate whose physical measurements and dental charts are consistent with X-46. DNA testing of the remains of X-46 and of relatives of William F. Halloran who shared his mitochondrial DNA can provide the evidence for the final possible match.
William F. Halloran was from Jersey City, New Jersey. His father Martin Halloran was born in Oughterard, County Galway, Ireland. A grade school in Elizabeth, New Jersey, is named for William F. Halloran. And now after 70 years, there is real hope that he has been found and can be identified.