A local World War II mystery solved


James “Jim” G. Russ Jr. had yearned since he was a boy to know how his father died in World War II.

Finally, more than 60 years after Army Cpl. James G. Russ Sr., perished, thanks to a persistent pair of Luxembourg men, he got his answer in 2005.

Russ, 71, was 2 years old when his father died in a tank on Dec. 26, 1944, but that was all he ever learned about his father’s death, he said in an interview in his Champion home.

The Department of Defense notice of Russ Sr.’s death, sent to family members in North Carolina, probably contained some details but it was never shared with him, Russ Jr. said.

But now the mystery has been solved.

The Luxembourg men, who spent 10 years researching the history of the Russ Sr.’s tank in WWII, wrote a book about it — “The Tank Accident in Hesperange, December 26, 1944.”

“We wrote the entire story of the tank from its landing in France until the end of the war,” said Christian Pettinger, who co-authored the book with Roland Schumacher.

The men live in Fentange, a suburb of Hesperange, Luxembourg, where the accident occurred. Pettinger is a newspaperman, and Schumacher is a university professor.

“Three American soldiers died in the accident. They wanted to find out all they could about the soldiers and the accident in hopes of erecting a monument and writing a book so that these American soldiers would not be forgotten,” said Kathy Russ, Russ Jr.’s wife.

“The admiration that all citizens of Luxembourg have for the American soldiers who came to their rescue during WW II is beyond words. In their country, wherever the flag of Luxembourg flies, the American flag is with it,” Kathy said.

Read more about this extraordinary story of heroism, dedication and friendship in Sunday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.

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