ANDERSON, SOUTH CAROLINA — Grandma Esther always said Bud would come home and he finally did.
Army Staff Sgt. William Rufus (Bud) Linder was missing for 76 years but his family finally knows what happened to him, including his niece, Arlene Alexander, who lives in the Linden area of Show Low.
Linder, of Piedmont, South Carolina, went missing in September 1944 while fighting for the US Army in the Hürtgen Forest offensive, a battle fought near Hürtgen, Germany. He was assigned to Company E, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division and was just 30 years old when he disappeared.
Linder was reported missing in action on Nov. 17, 1944 but was never acknowledged as a prisoner of war.
A year later the War Department issued a “presumptive finding of death” for Linder.
Thanks to DNA technology, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that Linder was finally accounted for on Sept. 23, 2021.
He was buried with full military honors in South Carolina on Oct. 29.
Alexander said until now she really only thought of her uncle Bud when her sister died.
“My sister put together our family’s pictures and she gave me his (Bud’s) flag and his awards that were in a little tin box. I also had a letter from the government where they had given money to my grandparents for his death — $10,000,” Alexander said.
Alexander added that those treasured items memorializing Bud have been passed on to one of her nieces.
“I thought someone needs to carry this on. I had his picture and everything. When we would get together at family reunions, we would talk about him. Grandma always said that he was coming home — he’s coming home — and he did,” she said.
Because of Grandma’s faith, on the front of Bud’s funeral program are the words, “Welcome Home.”
Bud’s funeral was “nothing like I’ve ever seen. I’m going to cry,” Alexander said. “All the people lined the streets with flags waving — salutes, firemen with their lights on at their station and all lined up. Policemen, sheriffs — so many people showed up to show their respect. That means America is not dead yet. Bud got his parade.”
The hunt for Linder
Following the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) was tasked with investigating and recovering missing American personnel in Europe. They conducted several investigations in the Hürtgen area between 1946 and 1950, but were unable to recover or identify Linder’s remains. He was declared non-recoverable in December 1951.
While studying unresolved American losses in the Hürtgen area, a DPAA historian determined that one set of unidentified remains, designated X-5431 Neuville, originally discovered by local residents shortly after a forest fire swept through the area in 1947, possibly belonged to Linder. The remains, which had been buried in Ardennes American Cemetery, were disinterred in April 2019 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska for examination and identification.
To identify Linder’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.
Linder’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
The American Battle Monuments Commission and the US Army Regional Mortuary-Europe/Africa also heavily assisted this mission.
When family members were contacted by DPAA two years ago with information that they may have discovered Bud’s remains in Germany, they thought it was a scam.
They ignored military officials for a while.
“Then Fort Knox called my sister and said, ‘We think we have your uncle’s remains.’ It was two years ago when they found 200 soldiers. They were buried in Belgium in an American cemetery. Now they’re making an assembled skeleton out of the bones — and with DNA — that’s how they found him,” Alexander said.
For two years DPAA kept the family informed on their progress.
Remembering a fallen hero
Linder’s interment with full Army military honors was on Oct. 29 at M. J. “Dolly” Cooper Veterans Cemetery in Anderson, South Carolina.
A processional left Gray Mortuary in Pelzer, South Carolina, and travelled through Williamston, South Carolina, as citizens lined the streets to honor him.
Linder was born May 25, 1914 in Fort Mill, South Carolina and was the only son of the late William Simpson and Esther E. Stansell Linder, formerly of Piedmont, South Carolina.
He was survived by nieces Arlene Alexander of Show Low; Gladys Moody of Walhalla, South Carolina; Norma J. Araujo of Lakeland, Florida; and Sylvia Sue Kent of Powdersville, South Carolina; nephew Buddy Bryant of Piedmont, South Carolina; and numerous great-nieces and nephews.
The family asks that memorials be made to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 1730 M Street, NW Suite 705, Washington, DC 20036.
More about Linder’s service to our nation
Army Staff Sgt. William R. Linder, 30, of Piedmont, entered the US Army from South Carolina and served in Company E, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. The Hürtgen Forest offensive lasted from Sept. 19, 1944 to Feb. 10, 1945, consisting of a fierce series of clashes between US forces and the entrenched German forces.
On Nov. 7, 1944, the 12th Infantry Regiment relieved the exhausted soldiers of the 109th Infantry Regiment that was situated north of the town of Germeter. On Nov. 16, Company E, along with Companies F and G, attacked northward but were stopped by rifle and machine gun fire. The next day, Companies E and F attempted to continue their advance but were forced to withdraw to their previous positions. Historical circumstances suggest Linder was lost during the fighting on Nov. 17.
Some of the information in this story was provided by information printed in The Journal, which is based in Williamston, South Carolina. Their website can be found at TheJournalOnline.com.