During World War II there was a hierarchy of legal next-of-kin. If the soldier was unmarried it was father, mother, oldest sibling. If the soldier was married, then widow unless she remarried before choices had to be made, then it reverted to the father. However, there are cases where the military allowed someone in the family other than mom or dad to be the legal next of kin to make decisions on where the remains should be buried and who received personal effects and any monies due the soldier. This article provides one example in which a daughter is protecting the emotional health of her parents.
Now, before we proceed, it is important to know Arthur Abram’s story is part of a much larger 82nd Airborne and Blacks-Whites Army segregation violence story in Leicester, England, during 1944. You can search for Abrams and Leicester online and should run across a book on Google Books called, But for These Things – Leicester and its People in WWII, By Vincent Holyoak. There is also a website (with no contact/author information) that pops up in search results before this which appears to have plagarized the book and a newspaper article, to add the information to the website. I will not link the website.
Another name that appears in these accounts is Curtis E. Phares who also died that night. You will see bits of his story, also appeared to have been plagarized from the book, on the website that appears. The book, written a few years ago seems to leave readers with the idea the family never really knew what happened to Curtis, however, his very burned OMPF does exist and I have a copy. I will not share that here, but answers to what happened to Phares, and testimony from many others, can mostly be found within what remains of his burned file.
Protecting the Parents
Cpl Arthur Abrams, MP Platoon 82nd Airborne, born in 1912, died of a stab wound on 1 May 1944 in Leicester, England. Arthur had a wish he expressed to his siblings before he left for war, and which he expressed again before he died. That his mother not worry about him. This excerpt is from his sister Sara (p. 31/56 of the PDF).
However, Arthur’s mother was not the only one that the siblings felt they needed to protect. Their father was also in bad health and needed emotional protection. Neither was mentally fit, according to the children with Sara as their mouthpiece, to make decisions or hear the news that Arthur had died. This led to many letters being exchanged between Sara and the military and the parents’ doctor and the military to verify that Sara should be made legal next-of-kin. This excerpt is from p. 25/56 of the PDF.
Sara’s final sentence of the 2nd paragraph shown here is a powerful statement that applies to EVERY family in WWII. My brother was killed but we too are war casualties even though our wound does not show or bleed.
The letters in this file are heart-wrenching as Sara tries to protect her parents from the knowledge that their son died. This was a heavy burden for her and her siblings to carry. I have no information how on how long after the war the parents lived or if they were ever told. The file is a good example of how many hoops someone had to jump through to prove the legal heir needed to change. It also shows us some of the health conditions the parents had, which is important information for a family historian.
This is not the first file I’ve seen showing this type of example, but it is one of the most powerful and well-written. The letters are also another example of a strong woman speaking up for those who can’t speak or need to be protected.
Read Arthur’s full IDPF and the letters from his sister Sara. He is buried in ABMC Cambridge Cemetery in the UK.
What interesting things have you found in your military research that helped your family heal?
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