If you have followed my writing on my website, Facebook, or in magazines for at least a year, you know I’m a spiritual person. I feel and sense the dead, walk through a cemetery and hear their cries, feel their anger, sadness, and loneliness, and hear their stories. They communicate through me so I can give them a voice. I often help cross them over into the light. Through the work I do and places I go, I heal them, others, and myself in the process.
Some of my experiences in Europe can be found in last year’s trip articles Traveling In Their Footsteps. Since that time I’ve focused more on WWII education and things in life, than the spiritual side of my work. Recent events have pushed me to take a look at this side of work with fresh eyes and an open heart. The dead have so much to teach us if we allow it.
For almost two months, there is a story that wants to be told, which I have debated telling. I can’t hold it back any longer.
On 30 September 2016, I visited Margraten Cemetery. My fiancé adopted two graves there which we were visiting, and also the grave a friend asked I visit. This grave was for Sgt. Fernando Rangel, 776th Bomber Squadron, 464th Bomb Group (Heavy). He was KIA on 11 December 1944 and buried at Plot P Row 22 Grave 13. This is the last row of the cemetery on the right side if you are standing in front of the chapel looking at the graves.
Next to Rangel’s grave at Plot P Row 22 Grave 14 was an Unknown Soldier. My fiancé touched his grave and quickly removed his hand and commented on the energy. I touched his grave and felt extreme sadness, anger, and loneliness. It felt like this soldier had a story that must be told. I stood at the grave with my hand on it for a long time sending him healing and listening to him. After a short time the energy shifted but not enough to make him happy.
Who was possibly in this grave? I had to see what the records said. I went into the office at Margraten and asked for the X-File number of this grave.
Did you know, for every single soldier, sailor, or Marine who was Killed In Action or died during the war, there is an IDPF – Individual Deceased Personnel File. The IDPF lists the name, unit, serial number/service number, and death information for that individual. This file exists even for those who are still considered Missing In Action today.
For the Unknown soldiers who are buried in graves marked Unknown – there is an X-File. An X-File contains the same paperwork in most cases, as the IDPF, except it does not have the soldier’s name, unit, serial number/service number. That was unknown to Graves Registration Service at the time identifications were being made. You can view IDPFs and other records under RESEARCH on this website. There are file examples. Under EDUCATION you will find articles about these records. Under BOOKS you can order a copy of one of my WWII research books to learn even more about IDPFs and death records.
AMBC cemeteries seem hesitant to give out X-file numbers, at least that was the response I got. I was questioned as to why I wanted this information, even though the office staff knew who I was and what I do. Perhaps this is because most people do not understand the records created for Unknowns and it would stir up a lot of discussion and issue with ABMC, DPAA, and other organizations doing MIA research. There was no education about Graves Registration and identification after the war and almost none exists still today to the general public.
I was able to get the X-File number for this Unknown and I did obtain his X-File. I’m still waiting for Ft. Knox to open up their servers so IDPFs can go out again (it’s been down 2 months,) so I can see the IDPF for the soldier that might be in this grave. The X-File pointed much evidence to a man named John W. Gordon. Gordon is listed on the Wall of the Missing at Epinal.
The X-File had information on the death, identification that was attempted, burial, and information from the next of kin, which stated unless a positive identification could be made, the widow and John’s mother, did not want to hear from the military again. Reading this made me understand why John W. Gordon felt so angry and sad. Maybe he could have been identified then, or maybe not. The technology we have today with DNA, did not exist back then. Based on dental records in his file, a positive identification could not be made at that time. Today, maybe one could be made if a case was strong enough for DPAA to disinter the remains and test.
John W. Gordon was KIA 17 Jan 1945. He was part of G Company 157th Infantry Regiment 45th Division. His last residence in the U.S. was Winnetka, IL. I live about 30 minutes away from Winnetka. John received posthumously, a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and CIB. I felt the close connection I have to where he lived was one reason he reached out that day.
I did some research on John W. Gordon and found a FindAGrave entry with his photo. He was a very handsome young man. I also contacted the photo contributor and have learned a lot about John, his life, and the research the family today has done into his service. His family has been in touch with DPAA and submitted DNA.When I emailed the contributor, John’s spirit was with me, guiding me as to what to write, and encouraging me to not let his story die.
I pulled some of his Morning Reports to learn a little about G Company and where he was KIA. I know he was sick a lot in the field hospitals between October and December 1944. According to Morning Reports, the day John and several men in his company went Missing, they were located near Phalsbourg, France. I’m still waiting on his IDPF to see what other information it contains. His OMPF (service file) burned in 1973.
There is still much to learn about John, his life, service, and death. There are lessons to pass along and healing to be done. Once his story is told, maybe he will be at peace. Maybe he knows he can be identified and wants DPAA to look at his case again. Maybe he wants us all to remember those who died during the war, and those who have died since, and know they ALL have stories to tell. It is up to us, the living, to give them a voice so their sacrifice will not be forgotten. The sacrifice of death in war or the sacrifice of leaving their lives to go fight and return.
Are you telling the stories of the dead? Are you passing their lessons on to the next generation? Do you walk into the cemetery and feel their pain, hear their voices, and want to help? Not everyone can sense this, but we can all do the research and write the stories so these men and women will not be forgotten.
© 2016 World War II Research and Writing Center