Descendants of WWII 92nd Infantry Buffalo Soldiers Sought to Identify Remains

Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division marching in Italy after freeing the region from German troops on April 8, 1945. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2181029

Recently, Fold3 published an article about the 92nd Infantry Division known as the Buffalo Soldiers – a black infantry division that fought in Italy during WWII and suffered severe casualties.

Fifty soldiers of the 700 lost have never been identified and remain unaccounted for.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is seeking family members of these deceased soldiers to submit DNA for comparison. Details are provided, here.

This is NOT Commercial Testing

Note that testing with any commercial company (such as Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, etc.) does nothing to identify these remains. If you have already tested there, it doesn’t count for this purpose.

The DNA of the soldiers’ remains is processed in the government forensic lab and is NOT entered in any public database. Family members must contact the Defense POW/MIA Agency and submit DNA specifically for identification of remains. DNA submitted for the identification of remains will not be used for any other purpose.

While this specific ask is for the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division, DNA of family members of all soldiers whose remains have not been recovered and repatriated should be submitted.

Historically, mitochondrial DNA is the easiest to recover from degraded remains, but sometimes they can recover enough autosomal DNA. If you’re a family member, offer regardless. Amazing results are being garnered with forensic samples that wasn’t possible even just months ago.

Trust me, I’m inquiring about submitting my DNA in the hope of identifying my first cousin, Robert Vernon Estes who died as a POW in North Korea.

If your family member’s remains have never been identified, please contact the authorities and volunteer to DNA test. Even if you don’t qualify for whatever reason, you may know or be able to locate someone who does.

Servicemen’s Families Sought

The entire list of unidentified 92nd Infantry soldiers who gave their life for their country can be found in this article.

The men listed below cannot be identified because there is no DNA sample available from a family member. When attempting to identify the parents and families of these men for this article, I found hints about why the families of these men may not have been located. It appears that some were not living with their birth families or had no siblings.

This makes it even more important for anyone who recognizes these men or these families to contact the Army Casualty office with information. Every soldier deserves to be identified.

  • Benjamin Davis Jr., 29, Webster, Florida, died February 9, 1945, so born about 1916. Jr. implies that his father’s name was the same, but I was not able to locate his family through census or other readily available genealogical search methods.
  • Melton Futch, 20, Perry, Florida, born January 28, 1923. Died Dec. 31, 1944. Parents Robert Futch born 1881 in Georgia and Laura Littingham born 1885 in Georgia, married in Taylor Florida on October 15, 1916.
  • James Thomas Mathis, 22, Fayetteville, Georgia, born there August 9, 1922, died December 27, 1945
  • Anderson Slaughter Jr., 23, Fulton, Georgia, born August 14, 1921, in Atlanta, Georgia. Died February 11, 1946. Essie Mae Slaughter is given as next of kin in 1942 draft registration. Her name is given as Elsie Slaughter on 1930 census as his mother, age 36 (born 1894), living with her mother Victoria Travelis or Travis or Trarelis (SP) age 59, (born about 1871). Eliga Travis died on October 10, 1920, with his wife listed as Victoria Travis. Jr. suggests Anderson’s name is the same as his father.
  • Wesley Melton, 20, Chicago, Illinois, born September 26, 1924. Died February 10, 1945. Edna Melton listed as next of kin on his draft registration in 1942. In the 1940 census, Edna, his mother, is listed as a widow, age 39, born about 1901 in Illinois. A woman by that name died July 12, 1972.
  • Staff Sgt. Henry W. Wilson, 24, Independence, Kansas. Draft registration says he was born December 11, 1919, in Kansas. Next of kin is Carrie Wilson. 1920 census shows Altee (spelled Henry in 1930 and 1940) Wilson (35) born in Oklahoma, father born in Tennessee, and mother in Oklahoma. Wife Caroline (34) born in Missouri, father born in Tennessee, and mother in Missouri. 1930 and 1940 census show two other children, a male, Leroy age 17, and a female, Louise age 13.
  • James Luther Strong, 34, Covington, Louisiana, born September 23, 1910, in LeCompte, Louisiana, died November 10, 1945. He was married when he enlisted in 1943. He listed his residence as St. Tammany, Louisiana but enlisted in Houston, TX. His draft registration card in 1940 gives his next of kin as Mrs. Kattie Bogany, his aunt. Who lived in Beaumont, Jefferson Co., TX.
  • Herbert Taylor, 23, Salisbury, Maryland, died February 12, 1946, so would have been born in 1923. 1930 census shows a person by his name, age 11, so born 1919, with Charles and Hattie Handy, listed as an adopted son. He was born in Virginia but both parents born in Maryland. There is a draft registration for Herbert Taylor, born May 8, 1915, in Newport News, VA who lists Nanie Duncan as his mother. He works for the Seaman Elridge Orchestra in Baltimore. Another registration for Herbert Lee Taylor who lists his wife as Adeline Taylor. None of these align well.
  • James Edward Warren, 19, Pelahatchie, Mississippi, born June 17, 1925, same location. Lists Lennie Macelroy, his mother, as next of kin who lives in the same place. Died February 6, 1945.
  • Maceo Aquinolda Walker, 20, New Rochelle, New York, born December 11, 1924, in Baltimore. Next of kin is Louis Walker of New Rochelle, same address. Died February 10, 1945. In the 1940 census he is listed with parents Louis Walker, 40 (born 1900) in Maryland and Patricia, 38, (born 1902) in Virginia. In 1930, Richard Shelton, brother-in-law is living with the family in NYC, age 22. No other children.
  • Cleo Penny, 23, New York. Died February 11, 1946. The 1930 census shows a Cleo Penny born in 1924 in NC. If this is the right family, there are 3 sisters and a brother.
  • William Thomas McFadden, 24, Olanta, South Carolina/Baltimore, MD. Died February 10, 1945. The 1930 census shows a person by this name in Motts, Florence Co., SC with parents Thomas L. McFadden (3) and wife Annie (28). If this is the correct person, there are 2 sisters and a brother. Also living in the residence is the sister-in-law, Elizabeth Nelson, age 13. His draft registration card in Baltimore, MD in 1942 shows that he was born in Olanta, SC on July 18, 1920, and that Catherine Dickey is his next of kin, with no relationship given.
  • Robert Williams, 26, Richmond, Virginia. Died February 8, 1945, so born about 1919. Several men by this name are found in the Richmond area.
  • 1st Lt. John M. Madison, 32, Washington D.C. Died April 5, 1945. The 1940 census shows him, age 27, a math teacher. The census says he is living with some family but his father is clearly not age 30. Something is amiss with the census. The house number suggests he is living alone.
  • Jose A. Lopez, 29, Washington D.C./Palmira, Cuba. Died February 8, 1945. Born 1915, not a citizen when enlisted in 1942.

For all we know, the bones of these men have already been tested in the Army forensic lab in Hawaii and are just waiting for a family member to match their DNA. If you are related to these men, please contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490 to arrange to submit a DNA sample.

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10 thoughts on “Descendants of WWII 92nd Infantry Buffalo Soldiers Sought to Identify Remains

  1. Roberta, have you done a FB post about this that’s shareable? If not, would you allow me to copy/paste to make one?

  2. Roberta, you should get some national award or medal for your untiring efforts.

    Terrific blog today about DNA and Buffalo Soldiers! I know much good will come out of this and bring closure to families who are wondering about their loved ones in WW II. Surely, “Every soldier deserves to be identified.”

  3. Roberta,
    Larry Spears (I believe a cousin of yours) forwarded your excellent article on to me. Thank you for caring about these men. Giving them back their names and identities is right and noble. DARPA does amazing work.

    Since you have an interest in the identification of our fallen warriors
    I thought you might be interested in my unsuccessful attempts to identify my relative who died during the Civil War. You can find the whole sad story at http://www.notunknown.us

    Unfortunately DARPA and their resources are reserved for those who died in WWII and more recently. It is not a technical issue as we are able to recover DNA much older. It is an issue of will and concern about costs.

    I hope you are successful in finding relatives able to help.

  4. Thanks for the article. I found an 1945 obituary article about Lt Madison, which included a two year old daughter. Then I found the daughter on a tree in Ancestry. She passed away in 2000. I sent a message to owner of the tree encouraging a relative to contact Army Casualty Office. Fingers crossed!

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