This morning I made a few videos on TikTok about the John Wells WWII collection. Whoever sold his collection years ago divided it up into multiple parts and I obtained the part with a lot of graves registration photos, reports, and other materials.
One of the items I mentioned in my video was an article, I assume written by him since the onion skinned paper was in his collection, called United States War Dead Return to France from Channel Islands. Click the link to read this document.
Why is this one document, story, report so valuable?
This story talks about the return of our war dead to France so they could be properly identified and prepared for burial in France or repatriated to the U.S. Where else might this story exist? I did a little searching online and Internet Archive, hoping to discover it as part of a larger collection and had no luck. Is this the only copy or is one hidden somewhere in Quartermaster Records at NARA? I have no answer to that question.
This story is beautifully and emotively written and we learn about the process of loading our American caskets, draped in the American flag and covered by flowers from the residents of the Channel Islands, onto a French Destroyer, the Alycon, in preparation to return to France.
We learn which Graves Registration Units were present and which dignitaries or higher ranking military personnel were in attendance. These are valuable clues for any researcher, especially if your family member was part of these GRS units.
The story is so well written you almost feel the rain soaking your skin and hear the bugle sound after the caskets are loaded. We also learn about the ceremonies when the remains reached France and were taken to the U.S. Military Cemetery at Blossville. Finally at the end of the story we learn the names of those 17 men who were killed.
If your family has documents like this from any war, unidentified photos, and other pieces of history, please do not throw it out. These items lend context to your service member’s service and are extremely valuable. If you choose not to keep them, consider donating to a museum or library that will preserve the materials and make them available to researchers, especially if they can be digitized.
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