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American soldier returns home 73 years after being killed in WWII in Germany

An American soldier killed 73 years ago during World War II came home to be laid to rest Wednesday. (WCHS/WVAH)

An American soldier killed 73 years ago during World War II came home to be laid to rest Wednesday.

Shirley Bailey's family said he died a hero, and they never thought they would get him back.

On their kitchen table, they laid out 70 years worth of correspondence from a family desperate to find Bailey's body.

"I was only three when he got killed," said Bailey's sister Helen Francisco.

She said she doesn't remember much except for her mother's unending campaign to bring him home.

"My mother, she wrote all the time," she said, "I wish she was still living."

Bailey's brother-in-law Carl Francisco said he was killed in action fighting Germany's Hurtgen Forests.

"120,000 Americans went in there. 33,0000 got killed," Carl said.

Letters from witnesses said Bailey spent 14 hours pulling wounded soldiers off the battlefield while dodging land mines, barbed wire, and bullets.

"He wouldn't stop until he had them all out of there," Carl said.

A sniper hit him in the head while he tried to help a wounded soldier.

He died instantly, his body was missed during recovery sweeps, and he lay there for the next three years.

A German citizen found him, buried him, and notified the military.

They dug him up and re-buried him, unidentified, under this cross in a Belgian cemetery.

"He lay there for 70 years," Carl said.

Now they know who those bones belong to, after comparing D.N.A. with family members and he'll be laid to rest again in America.

Helen only wished her mom could be here to see it.

"She would probably be dancing," she said, "she might be up in heaven dancing knowing he is home."

The Franciscos said this shows one thing: the military's "no man left behind" is more than a motto.

It's a creed they stand by.

"If that would have been their own son or brother, that couldn't have been any better," Carl said.

Bailey will be buried Saturday at one o'clock at the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar.

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