WWII airman from Eureka finally returns home

Staff Sgt. Walter Nies was shot and killed in a German POW camp in 1944
Staff Sgt. Walter Nies, from Eureka, was killed in a German POW camp in 1944 but his remains...
Staff Sgt. Walter Nies, from Eureka, was killed in a German POW camp in 1944 but his remains were not recovered and identified until recently.(Department of Defense)
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 10:17 AM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - A World War II soldier from South Dakota will be buried Dec. 9 at the Johannestal Baptist Cemetery, Eureka.

U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Walter Nies died in a German Prisoner of War camp in Lithuania during the war, but his remains were not able to be recovered because the camp was deep in the Soviet Union occupation zone.

Even when Lithuania became independent in 1992, recovering U.S. military remains from the camp was difficult. The Soviets destroyed the camp in 1955, reverting the area to farmland.

In 2019, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and an American archeological group was able to find three graves. The remains were taken to the DPAA lab at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., were Nies was identified through circumstantial evidence and dental, anthropological, mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA analysis.

Nies was a tail gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress on a mission to Sofia, Bulgaria in the winter of 1944. As his bomber was heading back to its home base in Italy it developed engine trouble. The plane was forced to crash land on a beach in Montenegro where the crew was captured by the Germans.

Nies and the other enlisted men were sent to Stalag Luft 6 in Lithuania. On May 28, 1944, German guards shot and killed Nies. The Germans said he was trying to escape but U.S. prisoner testimony following the war claimed Nies was shot while on his way to the latrine early in the morning. He was 23 years old.