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Until They All Come Home – PFC Cecil E. Harris Has

October 21, 2014

 

PFC Cecil E. Harris

PFC Cecil E. Harris

 

 

Dear Readers,

 

Those of you that have been following our posts of a fallen U.S. WWII soldier for the past year, ever since his remains were discovered in Alsace, France, will be happy to read the conclusion of this touching story.

As a reminder, we encourage you to have a look at the full account:

https://cyberambassadorsblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/until-they-all-come-home-happy-veterans-day-2013/

https://cyberambassadorsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/welcome-home-private-harris/

 

PFC Cecil E. Harris, KIA in Dambach, Alsace, France on January 2, 1945, and MIA until September 2013 will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on October 22, 2014 at the presence of his family.

We would like to reiterate our sincerest thanks to the French authorities, to the personnel of the Lorraine American Cemetery, to JPAC and to everyone else involved in the finding, repatriation and identification of PFC Harris’ remains.

Until they all come home — PFC Cecil E Harris has.

Our thoughts and prayers are with PFC Harris’ family.

 

U.S. Consulate General Strasbourg

 

Farewell blog of Consul General Reade

July 2, 2014
Consul General Evan G. Reade and his wife Mary Rose in front of their residence

Consul General Evan G. Reade and his wife Mary Rose in front of their residence

 

I’m afraid the time has come for me to say farewell to Strasbourg, Alsace, Lorraine, and Franche Comte.  It seems like only yesterday I was arriving, writing my introductory blog, and starting to explore this marvelous region and getting to know its wonderful people.  These three years have passed way too quickly.  Everywhere I’ve gone during my time here – from the palaces of the Prefets to the city halls of small villages, from grand ceremonies in big city town squares to simple memorials next to small steles erected in the mountains to fallen American soldiers and airmen, to universities, schools, factories, museums, historical sites, the list goes on and on – I have been warmly welcomed.  And I have always been deeply touched by the friendship and respect shown to my country.

The ties that bind France and the United States stretch back to the birth of the United States of America.  Today, we live in a complicated, dangerous world, which makes it all the more important for our two great countries to continue to work side by side, in a strong and enduring partnership to protect and advance our common values and interests.  I hope I’ve been able to play a small role in helping to strengthen these ties, and I look forward to continuing to do so in my next assignment, in Washington, DC.

To my friends and colleagues at the Council of Europe, thank you for making me feel welcome and valued.  The United States is proud of its Observer status and looks forward to continuing to work with you to preserve and promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Europe and beyond.  Thank you for all you do to help promote peace and stability in Europe.

I’d also like to thank my fantastic staff here at the Consulate General, who have done outstanding work these past three years.  We may be one of America’s smallest diplomatic outposts, but I think we provide first-rate service to our American community here, and represent the United States as well as some of our larger missions elsewhere, thanks to their hard work.

Thanks to everyone who has made my stay here so memorable and enjoyable.

Au revoir!

Evan G. Reade

Consul General

Acting Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe

 

(French translation)

 

J’ai bien peur – hélas ! – qu’il soit temps pour moi de dire au revoir à Strasbourg, a l’Alsace, à la Lorraine et à la Franche-Comté. J’ai l’impression que c’était à peine hier que j’arrivais, que j’écrivais les premiers mots du blog, que je découvrais ces régions merveilleuses et que j’apprenais à connaitre leurs habitants exceptionnels…

Ces trois années sont décidemment passées trop vite ! A chaque fois que je me suis déplacé – que ce soit dans les Préfectures ou dans les mairies des petits villages, à des cérémonies majestueuses en plein cœur des grandes villes ou à de simple commémorations près de stèles érigées en l’honneur de soldats ou de pilotes américains,  dans les universités, les lycées, les usines, les musées, les sites historiques, et la liste est longue… ! – j’ai toujours été très chaleureusement accueilli. Aussi, j’ai toujours été très, très touché par l’amitié et le respect témoigné envers mon pays.

Les liens qui unissent la France et les Etats-Unis remontent directement à la naissance des Etats-Unis. Aujourd’hui, le monde dans lequel nous vivons est de plus en plus compliqué et dangereux, ce qui rend encore plus important pour nos deux pays de continuer à travailler main dans la main, dans un partenariat fort et pérenne, pour protéger et faire avancer nos valeurs et intérêts communs. J’espère que j’ai réussi à jouer un tant soit peu un rôle dans le renforcement de ces liens, et j’ai hâte de poursuivre cette mission dans mon nouveau poste à Washington, DC.

A mes amis et collègues du Conseil de l’Europe, je leur dit : « merci ! » pour m’avoir très bien accueilli et toujours estimé. Les Etats-Unis sont fiers de leur titre de « membre observateur » au Conseil de l’Europe et espère continuer à travailler avec vous pour préserver et promouvoir la démocratie, les droits de l’homme et l’Etat de droit en Europe… et de plus en plus au-delà ! Merci pour tous ce que vous faites, chaque jour, pour encourager la paix et la stabilité sur le Vieux Continent.

Je tiens aussi à remercier mon équipe fantastique au Consulat Général, qui a fait un travail extraordinaire pendant ces trois dernières années. On est peut être un des postes diplomatique américains les plus petits, mais je pense que les services rendus à notre communauté américaine étaient des plus attentionnés et que nous avons représenté les Etats-Unis aussi bien que n’importe quelle plus grande mission, et cela grâce à notre travail acharné !

Merci à tous ceux qui ont rendu mon séjour ici si mémorable et plaisant.

Au revoir!

THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE: THE “GUIDE” OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND RULE OF LAW

July 1, 2014

U.S.COE logo

Three years have passed all too quickly, and it is now time for me to depart Strasbourg and the Council of Europe and move on to my next assignment.  It has been an honor and a real pleasure for me to represent the United States of America as its Observer at the Council of Europe.

I have learned a lot during my time in Strasbourg about the extremely valuable, in fact, critical role the Council of Europe plays in promoting, maintaining, and supporting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law here in Europe and, increasingly, beyond.  But I have also come to learn that the organization is not well known, understood, or fully appreciated by most people, not only in my country, but even in Europe.  So as I return to Washington, I will continue to work to do my best to make others aware of what it is accomplishing.

But how best to describe the Council of Europe?   I have heard it said many times that the Council of Europe is the “watchdog” of democracy, human rights, and rule of law in Europe.  But I don’t think that’s the best description.  Because to be a good watchdog, you must have, first, a loud bark, and second, sharp teeth you are willing to use.   The COE has a bark, and it has teeth:  it has the remarkable European Court of Human Rights, after all.  But what the COE lacks is the temperament of a watchdog.   It was not conceived of, bred, or trained to bite or attack.  Rather, it was raised with a much more docile and good-natured temperament.   I think it was founded to lead, to help, and to guide – not to threaten, frighten or attack.

So, if we stick to canine analogies – and I don’t mean to imply a lack of vision on anyone’s part –  I think a much more appropriate description of the Council of Europe would be as the “guide dog” of democracy, human rights, and rule of law in Europe.  A guide dog must still, sometimes, bark loudly to sound a warning to prevent its owner from walking over a cliff, or stepping into traffic, or to avoid some other catastrophe.  And a guide dog must be firm and confident, nudging its owner back onto the safe path, as the COE does with its statements and decisions, or with the judgments of the Court.  But what the guide dog spends most of its time doing is leading the way and helping, as the COE does with its many monitoring mechanisms and support activities.

So when people in Washington ask me what role the Council of Europe plays in the architecture of European institutions, I will tell them it is the guide to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.   I urge the Council of Europe to bark loudly and clearly when it sees trouble, then to firmly guide its members away from danger and back on to the safe path, and to continue to show its members the way forward.

I’d like to say thank you to all my friends, contacts, and counterparts at the Council of Europe who have made my time here so pleasant, easy, enjoyable, and useful.

Evan G. Reade

Consul General

Acting Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe

 

(French translation)

LE CONSEIL DE L’EUROPE ; le “guide” de la démocratie, des droits de l’homme et de l’Etat de droit.

 

Ces trois années passes ici sont passées vraiment trop vite, et il est désormais temps pour moi de partir de Strasbourg, du Conseil de l’Europe et de poursuivre ma route vers mon nouveau poste.

J’ai beaucoup appris pendant mon séjour à Strasbourg sur le rôle extrêmement précieux voire critique du Conseil de l’Europe dans la promotion, le maintien, le soutien de la démocratie, des droits de l’homme, et de l’Etat de droit en Europe, et de plus en plus, au-delà. Mais je me suis aussi rendu compte que la plupart des gens, autant en Europe que dans mon pays, ne connaissent, ne comprennent ni n’apprécient à sa juste valeur cette organisation. Alors au moment où je m’apprête à retourner à Washington, sachez que je continuerai à faire de mon mieux pour faire connaitre à d’autres ce qu’elle accomplit.

Mais comment décrire au mieux le Conseil de l’Europe ? J’ai entendu de nombreuses fois dire que le Conseil de l’Europe était le “chien de garde” de la démocratie, des droits de l’homme et de l’Etat de droit en Europe. Mais je ne pense pas que ce soit la meilleure description possible, car pour être un bon chien de garde il faut, premièrement, savoir aboyer fort et deuxièmement, avoir des dents acérées à utiliser pour toute occasion propice.  Le Conseil sait certes aboyer fort, et a des dents acérées : il a la remarquable Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme. Mais ce qui manque au Conseil de l’Europe, c’est le tempérament d’un chien de garde. Il n’a pas été conçu ni éduqué pour mordre ou attaquer. Il a plutôt été élevé pour avoir un tempérament beaucoup plus docile et facile à vivre. Je suis convaincu qu’il a été fondé pour mener, aider et pour guider, certainement pas pour menace, apeurer ou attaquer.

Ainsi, pour rester dans les analogies canines – et en aucun cas je ne veux insinuer un manqué de discernement de qui que cela soit –  je pense qu’une description beaucoup plus appropriée du Conseil de l’Europe serait celle d’un chien guide, d’un chien pour aveugles de la démocratie des droits de l’homme et de l’Etat de droit en Europe. Un chien d’aveugle doit souvent aboyer fortement pour prévenir son maître sur le point de trébucher, de s’avancer sur la route ou pour lui éviter d’autres catastrophes. Un chien guide doit être inflexible et confiant dans ses choix, poussant doucement son maître dans la bonne direction ; c’est ce que fait le Conseil de l’Europe avec ses déclarations et ses décisions, ou avec les jugements de la Cour. La chose que le chien d’aveugle passe le plus clair de son temps à faire, c’est ouvrir la marche et aider, exactement comme le Conseil de l’Europe avec ses nombreux mécanismes de suivi et ses activités de soutien aux pays membres.

Ainsi, quand à Washington on me demandera quel rôle le Conseil de l’Europe joue dans l’architecture des institutions européennes, je répondrai qu’il est le guide de la démocratie, des droits de l’homme et de l’État de droit.  J’incite le Conseil à aboyer haut et fort quand des menaces se présenteront a lui pour ensuite mener ses membres hors de danger, sur un chemin plus sûr, puis continuer à indiquer à ses pays membres comment fonctionner dans les meilleures conditions.

Je tiens à remercier tous mes amis, contacts et homologues du Conseil de l’Europe pour avoir rendu mon séjour ici si plaisant, facile, agréable et utile.

 

Welcome home, Private Harris

June 23, 2014
Private First Class Cecil E. Harris

Private First Class Cecil E. Harris

 

Private First Class Cecil E. Harris has finally come home.  Last November 10, we published a blog for Veterans Day telling the story of a long lost World War II GI, missing in action since January 2, 1945, whose remains had been found on a hillside above the tiny town of Dambach, in the northern Vosges mountains.   We could not tell you his name, because he had not yet been positively identified by the U.S. Department of Defense, nor had his surviving family members been notified.  But shortly before Memorial Day, both his wife, Helene, and son, William were told he had been found.  According to his granddaughter, Christie, plans are being made to bury him with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery sometime in the coming weeks.

 

Once again, we’d like to thank all the local officials and others who located PFC Harris and helped to facilitate his return home.

 

 

 

Evan G. Reade

Consul General

Acting Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe

MILITARY HISTORY SITES IN NORTHEASTERN FRANCE

June 2, 2014
Consul General Reade at Ligne Maginot

Consul General Reade at Ligne Maginot

This week, we’ll be commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. This famous and heroic battle is well-known in the annals of World War II. But the “debarquement” at Normandy was only the beginning a long, hard-fought series of battles that took place across France in the following six months. And while we hope these battles were the last that the people of France will experience on their soil, they also certainly weren’t the first. France, as is the case with all of Europe, has experienced much conflict and warfare over the centuries, and the regions of Alsace and Lorraine are no exception. So in preparation of the upcoming 70th anniversary commemorations of World War II, and the centennial commemorations for the Great War of 1914-18, I thought some of our followers might be interested in learning a bit about some of the military history to be found in our Consular District.

Anyone who knows about the history of Alsace is aware that for centuries it has been a zone of conflict in Europe’s wars. In fact, when I was learning about European history prior to my arrival here, I had an instructor who said: “If I had to describe the history of Europe in once sentence, this would be it: ‘Following the death of Charlemagne, Europe was divided into three parts – the East, the West, and the Middle – and ever since then, the East and West have been fighting over the Middle.'” Perhaps a bit of an oversimplification, but Alsace has the misfortune of being located in the Middle.

Medieval Fortresses

As one drives along the A35 freeway or the beautiful Route du Vin that runs north-south through the region between Strasbourg and Mulhouse, you will see the ruins of ancient castles dotting the hilltops that served to offer protection to the region’s inhabitants dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Most lie in ruins, and some, like the ones above the villages of Kaysersberg and Ribeauville, can be visited if you’re willing to hike up a mountain side. But the largest and most impressive, Haut Koenigsbourg, is a major tourist attraction. It was restored in the early 20th Century by Kaiser Wilhelm during a period when Alsace was a part of Germany. Today, it is visited by thousands of tourists who learn what it was like to live in a medieval castle-fortress and who enjoy spectacular views of the Rhine river valley below. More information on this fascinating place to visit can be found at http://www.haut-koenigsbourg.fr/en/.

Vauban’s Fortifications

Students of military fortifications will be well aware of the work of the great military engineer, Vauban, who served King Louis XIV and who, between 1667 and 1707 built or upgraded more than 300 major fortifications across France. Many of them are located in our Consular District. In Strasbourg, one can visit the Citadel, now a park, or view the Vauban Barrage (dam) in the Petite France part of the city. An impressive and large star-shaped fort which still encloses a whole town can be visited at Neuf Brisach on the banks of the Rhine near Colmar. Check it out on Google Maps and you’ll see what I mean. Other examples of his work can be seen in Metz and Verdun in Lorraine. But perhaps the most impressive example of Vauban’s work in our District is the Citadel in Besancon. This impressive hill-top fortress now houses several museums, including one on the French Resistance in World War II. If you’re passing through the Region of Franche Comte, it’s definitely worth a stop! For more information, visit Besancon’s web site for the Citadel at http://www.citadelle.com/en/. A similar hill-top Vauban fortress can be found in Belfort, where you can also see Bartholdi’s gigantic “Lion of Belfort” statue. (It was Bartholdi, born in Colmar, who designed and built the Statue of Liberty, one of America’s most famous icons.)

German era fortifications and Fort Mutzig

The next generation of military fortifications in the Strasbourg area was constructed by the Germans, who built a ring of 17 forts to counter a possible French return to Alsace after Germany took control of the region following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Today, these forts, many of which have been abandoned and are overgrown, are linked by a bicycle path called “le piste des forts”. Some of them have been restored and can be visited. Two that I’ve visited are Fort Rapp (Moltke) in Reichstett near the Rhine-Marne canal, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Rapp, and Fort Kleber (Bismarck) in Wolfisheim, now used as a community park and venue for events. (The forts were named for German generals and personalities, but when the French returned to Alsace after World War I, the forts were all renamed for French generals.)

But the most impressive of all the German forts is Fort Mutzig, a huge underground complex that was a precursor to the later, more advanced subterranean facilities that comprised the Maginot Line. Located about thirty minutes west of Strasbourg, the fort was constructed under a hill that commanded a pass that would be the likely approach route of a French force approaching Strasbourg. Originally known by the Germans as “Feste Kaiser Wilhelm II”, it was constructed in the 1890’s, was one of the strongest forts in Europe, and used all the most advanced technology of the time, including concrete to counter newly developed high explosives that rendered the earlier masonry forts obsolete, electricity, ventilation systems, radio communications, and pop-up turrets that contained long range artillery pieces and anti-tank weapons. Working and living in the fort was like being on a battleship at sea, but with no portholes or fresh air! Today, the fort is operated as a museum by l’Association Fort de Mutzig, headed by President Bernard Bour, who was kind enough to give me a personal tour some time ago. Tours are available during the summer months, and anyone interested in the warfare of the World War I period should definitely visit this impressive fortification which has been restored and preserved by Mr. Bour’s association. You can find out more about the Fort at its website: http://www.fort-mutzig.eu.

The Maginot Line

Of course, the most well-known military fortifications to be found in Alsace are the remains of the famous Maginot Line, which was constructed between World Wars I and II to block a German and/or Italian invasion from the east. The Line was not actually a continuous wall like the Great Wall of China, but a series of interlinked forts and smaller fortified positions stretching from the Mareath Line in Tunisia, through Corsica, then from Nice to Dunkirk. In Alsace, it followed along the Rhine River, then curved west toward Lorraine. The line was anchored by Fort Schoenenbourg in the Hagenau defense sector. Today, this remarkable fort has been restored by the Association des Amis de la Ligne Maginot d’Alsace, and can be visited by the public everyday between May 1 and September 30, and on weekends and some holidays in April and October. I was recently given a tour of this impressive fortress by the Association’s President, Mr. Marc Halter. More information may be found at the website at http://www.lignemaginot.com. If you’re visiting the Lorraine region and would like to visit a Maginot Line fortress, then swing by the Hackenberg Fortress, which is the largest of the Maginot Line forts that can still be visited. Not far from Thionville and the Luxembourg border, it is also open every day during the summer months. The website is http://maginot-hackenberg.com/presentationanglais.htm.

Cemeteries and Battlefields

Epinal American Cemetary

Epinal American Cemetary

The heavy price paid by France, the United States, and Germany may be seen firsthand at the several military cemeteries found throughout the region. In our Consular District you can find four American military cemeteries, maintained and operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission, http://www.abmc.gov. If you are interested in World War I, then visit the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery near Romagne-sur-Montfaucon. This is the largest U.S. military cemetery in Europe and is the final resting place of 14,246 American warriors. Or visit the Saint Mihiel World War I American Cemetery in Thiaucourt. The Lorraine American Memorial in St. Avold is the largest World War II cemetery in Europe, with 10,489 graves. A second World War II cemetery can be found in Epinal, anbears testimony to the terrible cost of the campaign in the southern Vosges mountains. For the French perspective of World War I, a visit to Verdun is a must, with its memorial center, large cemetery, and unique looking Douomount Osuary monument. As you drive around the area, notice how the landscape is still cratered all these years later. In the Vosges, the monument at Hartsmanvillerkopf has recently been renovated and will be the site of the first major Franco-German commemoration of the war on August 3, 2014. There is a cemetery at the site, and one can also visit the trenches which are still visible in the hard, rocky landscape along the crest of the mountain.

As you drive anywhere in this region, you will come across small memorials to the men who fought and died in these small villages or on cold, wet mountainsides. Likewise for the rolling fields near Arracourt in Lorraine, where the largest tank engagement of the Western front took place during the Lorraine campaign in the drive to liberate Metz. There are also small museums dedicated to keeping reminding us of the terrible price paid. If you’re near Colmar, don’t miss the Battle of the Colmar Pocket Memorial and Museum, in Turckheim, http://www.musee.turckheim-alsace.com.

Meuse Argonne American Cemetary

Meuse Argonne American Cemetary

So, if you are in France to participate in the D-Day commemorations, or for any other reason, and find yourself in the Alsace-Lorraine-Franche Comte regions, we hope you’ll take the time to stop to visit some of the fascinating historical sites in this lovely part of France. Bon route!!

Evan G. Reade

Consul General

Deputy Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe

Remembering John F. Kennedy

December 9, 2013

For those of us who remember exactly where we were and what we were doing that fateful moment when the news broke that President Kennedy had been assassinated, it is hard to believe half a century has passed. But November 22, 2013 did, indeed, mark the 50th anniversary of that tragic day in American history.

JFK memorial / ONF Lorraine

JFK memorial / ONF Lorraine

Here in Eastern France, this important date was commemorated on the campus of the Office of National Forests’ training academy in the town of Velaine-en-Haye in Lorraine. And why at the training academy of the equivalent of our own Forest Service? Because in 1963, the campus was a NATO supply base, the Nancy General Depot, staffed by American military personnel and French civilians, and following Kennedy’s assassination a small monument was erected on the base to his memory. Said to be the only monument in France dedicated to President Kennedy and unveiled on November 20, 1964, its exact origin has been lost to history. But most agree it was the French employees of the base, touched by the young President’s death, who took up a collection and erected the monument. The anniversary, which was hosted by the Academy’s director, Alexis Hzlusko, was marked by the placing of wreaths at the monument, speeches given by the Director and the Consul General, and a luncheon hosted by the Academy for local officials, students, staff and faculty.

Remembering JFK / Pont Kennedy Strasbourg

Remembering JFK / Pont Kennedy Strasbourg

 Back in Strasbourg, the Consulate General hosted a small commemoration just across the street from our building  at the John F. Kennedy bridge over the Ill river. Again, the origin of how and when the bridge came to bear the late President’s name has faded with time. But we are grateful to the city of Strasbourg for so naming the bridge in honor of our fallen president. The ceremony was attended by the Deputy Mayor, as well as by representatives of Association Alsace Etats-Unis, Americans in Alsace, and Democrats Abroad. A small bouquet of flowers was placed at the bridge, and a moment of silence was observed. Across the street, the flag in front of the Consulate General flew at half-staff as we recalled the life of a young President tragically cut short and of the hopes that died with him.

 

 

 

Evan G. Reade

Consul General

Until They All Come Home: Happy Veterans Day 2013

November 10, 2013
U.S. Army uniform insignia

U.S. Army uniform insignia recovered with remains of World War II missing in action soldier.

 

When one thinks of servicemen who are Missing in Action (MIA), we normally think of the Vietnam War, or perhaps of the Korean Conflict. But there are over 12,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen still missing in the European and Mediterranean theatres of action from World War II. Several weeks ago, we had the rare opportunity to help send one of these heroes home. Here’s how it happened:

In January 1945, American troops moved in to secure a small valley near the town of Dambach after the Germans had been pushed out of France along the border stretching from Metz to Strasbourg. Dambach is located in a typical, lovely Alsatian valley about 45 minutes north of Strasbourg, and is dominated by several high ridges, sloping down from the Vosges mountains. One such ridge is marked by three distinctive rock formations that look like large chimneys, towering above the trees. The valley provides an easy route into Germany, only a few kilometers to the north.

Although things seemed quiet, one hundred and fifty miles to the west the Germans had just mounted a major counter-attack – the Battle of the Bulge – which American forces were still beating back. Fifty miles to the south, American and French forces were still trying to clear the Colmar Pocket of German forces in central Alsace. It was one of the coldest, harshest winters on record, and it was at that moment Hitler ordered another counter-attack, Operation Northwind, designed to take back Strasbourg and northern Alsace.

Elements of the 45th Infantry Division were dug in along the mountain ridges above Dambach guarding the valley approaches when the German forces attacked. The fighting for the ridge-top positions must have been fierce, as the slopes were steep and snowy, and many rocky outcroppings provided cover and concealment for the soldiers on both sides. According to local residents, the ridge-top changed hands several times over the course of the battle, during which many soldiers fell. One, a Private First Class, was later reported to be killed in action. But his body was never recovered, and his name was eventually inscribed on the Wall of the Missing at the American Cemetery at Epinal, in the Vosges Mountains.

Fast forward to sixty eight years later, September 2013; hikers resting beneath the middle of the three chimney rock formations spotted what they thought was a human skull protruding from the ground. They notified the superintendent of a nearby German military ceremony who came to the scene to investigate. When he lifted the skull, he found beneath it a perfectly preserved U.S. Army World War II dog tag, bearing the name of the soldier whose name appears on the wall. He carefully replaced the skull and immediately contacted his counterpart at the Lorraine American Memorial and Cemetery, as well as local authorities. The Joint Prisoner of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) was also notified and immediately dispatched a team to the site.

On September 9, 2013, the JPAC team arrived on the distinctive ridge in the Vosges and began to meticulously excavate the site. The skull was recovered, and small bits of human remains began to be found, along with unexpended ammunition, buttons, and uniform insignia, including a corroded but clearly recognizable “U.S.” collar insignia. The JPAC archeologist soon uncovered a femur bone, then a lower leg and foot. It was clear to everyone that this site did, indeed, hold the remains of a long missing, but not forgotten, American soldier. Following two days of work, the JPAC team successfully recovered a nearly complete skeleton, which was carefully removed to a local funeral home, pending it’s repatriation to the JPAC laboratory in Hawaii for positive identification.

As I watched the JPAC team at work, I thought about this lone soldier, lying for so long in a grave marked by a tall, distinctive rock formation. The site was carefully located under a large overhang, with the chimney on top, and I imagined how over the years, hundreds of hikers must have stopped to rest in this protected and dry spot, never guessing they were not really alone. Upon close examination, we located a rudimentary cross scrawled in the rock face above the grave, presumably placed there by the men who buried this soldier in what they thought would be a temporary resting place.

How had he been missed for so long? Why wasn’t he recovered after the war, along with the other fallen American servicemen? It would have been impossible to miss his gravesite, located as it was under such a distinctive landmark. I speculated that perhaps the soldier had fallen in the first desperate struggle for the ridge, that his comrades had seen him fall and die, but had not had time to recover him as they fled the German onslaught. Perhaps the Germans, after taking possession of the ridge, had buried the fallen American soldier. If this was the case, then the temporary grave would never have been known of or recorded by the American army.

We will probably never know how this soldier came to rest where he did, or how he was left there for so many years. But what is certain is that thanks to the great work of JPAC and the commitment of our country to assure that we will leave no fallen warriors behind, this soldier is returning home. I know very little about him, except that he was 20 years old and had a wife and child. I wonder if perhaps they are still alive. If they are, I can’t imagine the emotions they will feel when they are notified that their husband and father has been found.

Many thanks to the personnel of JPAC for their hard and arduous work; thanks to the personnel at the Lorraine American Cemetery who coordinated this recovery operation; and thanks to all the local and law enforcement authorities who so graciously hosted our teams and facilitated the return of our soldier to his country.

 

Happy Veterans Day.

“Until they all come home….”

 

Evan G. Reade

Consul General