Eugene Lett had just watched his buddy, Sgt. Jack Puckett of Wichita, die. But he knew he had to leave the body behind.
It was Jan. 15, 1945, and the Battle of the Bulge raged in the Belgian forest where the men of the 99th Infantry Division tried in vain to hold off the German offensive meant to divide American forces.
Casualties mounted under the withering fire. The Americans had run out of ammunition, save for one bullet in Lett's gun. It was time to leave, and there was no way to take Puckett's body along.
"We had to withdraw," Lett said, "and we had to leave him there."
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None of them would see him again.
For nearly six decades, Lett, his fellow veterans and Puckett's family would wonder what became of the remains of the tall, lanky kid from Wichita.
The mystery was finally solved in April 2005.
It was written about in the book in "The Dead of Winter," by Ohio freelance writer and Battle of the Bulge authority Bill Warnock.
The book details an improbable alliance between Warnock, veterans of the 99th and a pair of Belgian battlefield relic hunters, all determined to find the nearly 100 Americans left in the forests decimated by one of World War II's greatest battles.
Puckett would prove one of their greatest challenges.
Question: What took so long to identify the remains of Sgt. Jack Puckett?
Answer to Monday’s question: One of the most prominent 20th-century photographers who grew up in Wichita and went on to work for Newsweek, Life magazine and The New York Times was W. Eugene Smith.
Check Kansas.com on Wednesday for the answer to today’s question.