Interesting Articles

An empty foxhole, an anonymous grave, and a World War II mystery solved after 74 years



Army Pvt. John B. Cummings, who was killed during World War II and who was listed as unrecoverable, was buried with honors beside his parents after his remains were found and identified this year. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) (N/A/Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency )

November 12

Jack Cummings posed on the lawn in his uniform, hands clasped behind his back, his Army cap perched on his head at a jaunty angle.

His father, Leo, or his mother, Helen, had probably said, “Stand over there, Jack, while I take a picture.”

John B. “Jack” Cummings was 22, a handsome college man headed off to World War II from Juneau, Wisc., where his family, no doubt, prayed he would return.

But on Dec. 31, 1944, near the French village of Neuhaeusel on the Rhine River, he vanished from his foxhole, leaving behind a bloody piece of his skull and a helmet with a bullet hole in it.

For the next 74 years — until this summer — he was missing in action, his body declared non-recoverable. He existed largely in old military files filled with dental charts, plaintive letters from his mother, and typed reports about the Army’s futile attempts to account for him.

“Complete negative findings,” a 1947 Army report stated.

But a year earlier, the solitary grave of a slain GI had been discovered across the Rhine River in the German town of Iffezheim.

He had been killed near Neuhaeusel by an enemy raiding party that had attacked across the river. His body had been brought back over the Rhine and buried under a wooden cross that read “Hier Ruht ein U.S.A. — Soldat gef. am 31.12.1944”: “Here rests a U.S.A. soldier,” who fell on Dec. 31, 1944.

For seven decades, as his parents mourned, aged, and then passed away, and his sister, Mary Ellen, married and had 12 children, no one knew that the anonymous “U.S.A.-Soldat” was John B. Cummings.

Last month, after using state-of-the-art computer data and mapping programs, and DNA comparisons, the Defense Department announced that it had identified Cummings in July and that he had been quietly buried with honors on Oct. 13, beside his parents in Hazelhurst, Wis.

[Pentagon identifies Tuskegee Airman missing from World War II]

Cummings had been one of 72,797 Americans unaccounted for from World War II, according to the Arlington-based Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

His case illustrates how one GI could disappear in the chaos following the gigantic war, and how technology and a dogged government historian found him.

In the beginning, even the date of Cummings’s death was not clear.

The Army listed it as Jan. 4, 1945. But the Germans who had buried him, and knew firsthand, had put it at Dec. 31, 1944.

On that date the German army launched Operation North Wind, often called the second Battle of the Bulge, in which massed enemy forces surged across the Rhine River to attack the relatively green and under-strength U.S. Seventh Army, of which Cummings was a member.

Before it ended in American victory, thousands of GIs had been killed and wounded or had just disappeared.

Cummings and other men of Company A, of the 276th Infantry Regiment, had reached the banks of the Rhine River on Dec. 29, 1944, according to a memoir by Frank H. Lowry, an A company veteran. They were strung out in foxholes along the river and told to keep an eye on the Germans on the opposite bank.

They were also told to get rid of any letters and remove their unit patches to deny information to the enemy should they be captured. This would bedevil identification efforts later.

U.S. infantrymen of an armored division march on a snow-covered road southeast of Born, Belgium, on Jan. 22, 1945. (AP)

On that frigid New Year’s Eve, Cummings, armed with a Browning automatic rifle, was stationed alone about 10 yards from the river bank. Two members of his squad reported that he was okay when they saw him that night. Later, gunfire was heard, and when his buddies made their way back, he was gone.

“Only his helmet was found nearby with a bullet hole through it,” an Army report stated. “A blood-stained piece of his skull bone was also found, but his weapons and equipment were missing. ... A path was found which indicated that his body was dragged to the river. ... It can be presumed that ... Cummings was killed by the enemy and his body thrown into the Rhine River.”

“Further search for the remains of this soldier would be futile," the report states.

His parents had received a telegram on Jan. 23 saying that Cummings was missing in action. “If further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified,” it said.

Many months passed with no word.

In 1947, his mother wrote the Army, wondering whether the service might help her offer a reward in Germany for information about John. “I would gladly furnish the reward,” she wrote. The Army said it couldn’t help.

Meanwhile, in 1946, across the Rhine River, a soldier scouting for the American Graves Registration Command was told by the mayor of Iffezheim that a GI was buried nearby.

[For the lost U.S. Marines from Tarawa, a homecoming 70 years late]

The graves registration soldier went to the site, which was just behind a German pillbox, about 30 yards from the river. He also interviewed a local German soldier who had helped bury the dead American that night.

The body, almost a complete skeleton, was exhumed on May 10, 1946. There were only remnants of clothing, according to Army records, and no dog tag. With no identifying information, the body was designated X-6454 and reburied with thousands of other U.S. soldiers in what is now the Lorraine American cemetery in Saint-Avold, France.

The years went by. Cummings’s father died in 1963. His mother passed away in 1972. The family seldom discussed John, according to his nephew, Mark Hartzheim, of Minocqua, Wis.

“They just never talked about this much,” he said in a telephone interview on Oct. 23. “That was typical I think of people from that generation. They compartmentalized things and internalized them and didn’t dwell on them. ... But I’m sure it haunted them and troubled them the rest of their lives.”

Several years ago, Hartzheim became curious about the fate of “Uncle Jack.”

He began to do research, and in 2014 signed up to attend a meeting in Minneapolis hosted by the government for families of men still missing in action. He thought the chances of an ID were nil.

After he signed up, a government historian, Ian Spurgeon, now with the DPAA, was asked to revisit the case.

Spurgeon, in an Oct. 24 telephone interview, said Cummings’s files had not been examined in decades. Using the National Archives and other sources, he started to piece together the story.

He turned to a DPAA database of places where the bodies of unidentified World War II servicemen had been recovered in Europe.

He compared that to a DPAA database of known locations where GIs had disappeared.

Right across the Rhine River from Neuhaeusel, where Cummings had vanished, he saw the lone gravesite at Iffezheim.

“The hair on the back of my neck stood up,” Spurgeon said.

He called up the associated files for Cummings and for the grave across the river. “I’m thinking, historically, all the boxes are being checked off,” he said. “The location, date, the circumstances.”

Then began a process of research to get permission from the Army to exhume the X-6454 body from the cemetery at St. Avold to conduct scientific tests.

Spurgeon said he had to prove that there was a better-than-50 percent chance that X-6454 might be Cummings to have the body exhumed.

Spurgeon probed further, studied the related battles, and ruled out other candidates. He recommended that the remains be disinterred. Officials granted approval, he said. The remains were exhumed in 2016 and shipped to a DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, outside Omaha, for analysis.

DNA from the remains was compared with DNA from Cummings’s family, and the bones were studied by anthropologists.

“This year, after all the historical work had been put forward, after anthropology and the DNA [studies], it came back and confirmed ... that the remains ... [were] John Cummings,” Spurgeon said.

On July 23, Mark Hartzheim was taking his 7-year-old son, Danny, to an afternoon movie.

“We’re driving down the highway going to ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ [and] my phone rings, and I get this call," he said. “I shouted three times, ‘Oh my God!’ and I started to cry. My son is in the back of the car ... in his booster seat. ...He’s mystified.”

“'Danny, these are good tears,’" he said he reassured his son. “This is a good thing.’”


What an incredible story. To think that this happened after all these years! Let's hear it for tenacity!

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"


CBS NEWS February 12, 2019, 8:20 AM

Wreckage of World War II aircraft carrier USS Hornet discovered


The research vessel Petrel is perched on a spot in the South Pacific Ocean that was anything but peaceful 77 years ago. Then, it was the scene of a major World War II battle between the U.S. and the Imperial Japanese Navies. For the U.S. aircraft carrier, Hornet, it would be her last battle. 

Now, researchers are revealing Petrel found the wreckage of the USS Hornet in late January – exactly what they were looking for. The ship was found more than 17,000 feet below the surface, on the floor of the South Pacific Ocean near the Solomon Islands. The USS Hornet is best known for launching the important Doolittle Raid in April of 1942 and its role in winning the Battle of Midway. 

Richard Nowatzki, 95 now, was an 18-year-old gunner on Hornet when enemy planes scored several hits, reports CBS News' Mark Phillips. 
"When they left, we were dead in the water," Nowatzki said. "They used armor piercing bombs, now when they come down, you hear 'em going through the decks … plink, plink, plink, plink … and then when they explode the whole ship shakes."
With 140 of her crew already dead, the order was given to abandon ship. The Hornet went to the bottom – three and a half miles down – which the crew of the Petrel has been scanning with a deep-sea sonar drone that sends back live pictures.

uss-hornet-veteran-richard-nowatzki.jpg 2x" style="border:0px;" width="620" />

Richard Nowatzki survived the Japanese attack on the USS Hornet in 1942.  CBS NEWS

The drone brought back an image of something down there that's about the right size in about the right place. It looked like her but lots of ships went down around here. To be sure, they needed positive identification, which they got when they saw the Hornet's naval designation: CV-8.

"CBS This Morning" was able to share the discovery in real time with Richard Nowatzki in California – even finding the gun he was on during the attack.  

 "If you go down to my locker, there's 40 bucks in it, you can have it!" Nowatzki joked. 
Nowatzki has enjoyed a long life since that day. Seeing the Hornet again and the evidence of the men who served -- a jacket hung on a hatch, somebody's wash kit complete with toothbrush – naturally made him reflect on those who hadn't been as lucky.
"I know I've been a very fortunate man," he said. "The actual fact that you can find these ships is mind boggling to me … I want to thank you for honoring me this way."  
But it's the crew of the Petrel who were honored to find the Hornet and the final resting place of so many of her brave crew. Another wreck, and in turn, another war grave has been discovered. Its exact location is kept secret to protect it, but the memory now has a place and the loss has a memorial.

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wow, I just posted about that a few minutes ago. Then I looked and saw you posted it too. Goosebumps for sure. What an incredible find, and even more incredible that a member of the crew got to see the find. Loved his comment about the $40 in his locker.

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Remains of Army private killed in World War II identified

By: The Associated Press   21 hours ago



Army Pfc. William F. Delaney, 24, of Kingston, Tennessee, was killed during World War II. He was accounted for on Dec. 17, 2018, according to a release Monday, March 11, 2019, from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.


KINGSTON, Tennessee — The remains of a World War II soldier from Tennessee who was killed in Germany have been identified, military officials say.

Army Pfc. William F. Delaney of Kingston had been declared unrecoverable before dental and DNA analysis identified his remains, Defense Department officials said.

Delaney,24, was fighting with the 4th Infantry Division when his battalion launched an artillery strike against German soldiers near Grosshau in the Hurtgen Forest on Nov. 22, 1944.

An enemy artillery shell struck Delaney’s foxhole, and he died before he could be medically evacuated.

His remains weren’t recovered then because of ongoing combat operations, according to a release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. He was among hundreds of soldiers still missing from combat in the Hurtgen Forest when the war ended in 1945.

In 1947, a local resident, Siegfried Glassen, found a set of remains that he thought were of an American soldier, and the remains were sent to the American Graves Registration Command. But the remains could not be identified and they were buried in Ardennes American Cemetery.

Decades later, after an analysis of military records and AGRC documents, the remains were disinterred in 2017 and sent to DPAA for analysis. There the scientists used a range of evidence: dental, anthropological, material as well as mitochondrial DNA analysis.

They discovered that the remains that had been designated years ago as “X-5425 Neuville” were those of Delaney. He was officially accounted for in December.

The grave where he was interred as an “unknown” was “meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission,” the DPAA release said.

Officials say more than 72,000 U.S. service members remain unaccounted for from World War II.


3 hours ago, buk2112 said:

Officials say more than 72,000 U.S. service members remain unaccounted for from World War II.

That is so sad. That's a lot of men, accounted for in WWII. Terrible for the families that are involved.

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Just saw this on Facebook, farewell Mr. Manchel

Image result for salute the flag images



Son tried to save his dad, a World War II vet, who died on Honor Flight to San Diego

MAY 07, 2019 03:33 PM, UPDATED MAY 07, 2019 03:33 PM


World War II veteran Frank Manchel’s death on the Honor Flight was “almost instantaneous,” Honor Flight San Diego founder Dave Smith said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed,” Smith said, according to the newspaper.

Manchel’s son, a doctor, and another doctor went to help — and the two doctors gave him CPR for 12 minutes, the newspaper reported.

“Resuscitation measures were taken but he could not be revived,” Honor Flight San Diego posted to Facebook.

Honor Flight San Diego is a nonprofit that “takes heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials at no cost to the veterans,” according to its Facebook page.


“It is with our most deepest sympathy that we send our condolences to the Frank Manchel family,” the organization wrote.

Manchel, 95, was a U.S. Army and World War II veteran, according to Honor Flight San Diego.

When Manchel could not be revived, his body was draped in an American flag, according to the nonprofit.

“It was our privilege to honor this true American hero during his final hours,” Honor Flight San Diego Chairman Julie Brightwell said, according to the Union-Tribune.

While the plane began to land, people on board started singing “God Bless America” in honor of Manchel, the Union-Tribune reported.


“Frank Manchel was so excited to go on Honor Flight. To be with both of his sons as well as his 93-year-old brother who met him in Washington, D.C. was so special,” his son, Bruce, said in the Facebook post. “My father’s passing was the ending to the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends.

“ ... Frank passed quickly and peacefully and the compassion and respect that that was shown to our family will be treasured always,” he continued. “May he rest in peace as he is now with his other beloved son Jimmy.”

Honor Flight San Diego included a photo of Manchel on the American Airlines flight. The nonprofit says the photo was taken “just before he collapsed."




American Airlines has since offered to fly Manchel and his family members to Michigan, where his body will be laid to rest, the post says.

“We thank all of you – Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together,” Bruce Manchel wrote.

Six other people have died on Honor Flights, according to the Associated Press.




Yes, I too read this and was going to post it. Glad one of us got around to it. Well, what can you say. He got to be with his sons, and other WWII veterans, then see the Memorial and exchange talk with the group. Truly, what a wonderful way to leave this earth. 

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

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