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Overheard in GenForum: Killed in Action, W.W.II
by Rhonda R. McClure


Rhonda is taking a break this week, so this week's column features highlights from past months. Enjoy!

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

May 04, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Is there a list or record of American soldiers killed in action during W.W.II? I am searching for information on an uncle who was drafted into the army in NY and was killed in the D-day invasion. -- Gary

A: With the recent films that have come out about World War II, our thoughts have naturally turned back to those of our family members who fought, and sometimes perished, during that war. It is to be expected that we may want to seek out the burial places for those of our family who died overseas.

It is hard for us to really understand the true sacrifice in lives that was given during this war. However, there are 134,548 American servicemen buried in overseas cemeteries and another 78,000 names on Tablets of the Missing because their remains were never found.

There are 134,548 American servicemen buried overseas.

American Battle Monuments Commission

It is the American Battle Monuments Commission that is in charge of the burials of American soldiers in overseas cemeteries. As you can see from the numbers mentioned above there are a lot of burials to keep track of. The commission has the records of all deceased servicemen who are buried in American overseas cemeteries or are listed on the Tablets of the Missing.

When you write to them at the address listed below, you will be sent a brochure that will tell you the exact location of your uncle's grave. If he was among those listed on the Tablet of the Missing, then the brochure will tell you where his listing is on the Tablets. You can also request a photograph of the cemetery and your uncle's grave marker or his name on the Tablet of the Missing. They will superimpose your uncles marker or name over the cemetery.

You can write them at:

American Battle Monuments Commission Operations
20 Massachusetts Ave.
Room 5127 Casmir Pulaski Building
Washington, DC 20314-0001
Phone: 202-761-0537

Adopted Graves

In my research of Americans buried overseas, I found out that some of the local residents in the countries where the American cemeteries can be found have adopted graves. While not all of the American Cemeteries have such programs, even those that don't seem to do other things. All of this is a way to honor the Allied troops who died in the liberation of their countries.

For those cemeteries where the graves have been adopted, the locals visit the grave and leave flowers. They do this regularly. To find out which cemeteries have such programs, you will want to pick up Ann Bennet Mix's Touchstones, A Guide to Records, Rights and Resources for Families of American World War II Casualties, published by AGLL in 1996. She surveyed the superintendents of each of the overseas cemeteries and then included their responses in her book.

D-day Military Personnel

It is possible that your ancestor is buried in the Brittany-American Cemetery in Saint-James (Montjoe-Saint-Martin) France. This cemetery is located between Avranches and Fougeres and is near Mont-St. Michael in southwest Normandy. There are 4,410 Americans buried here and another 498 names on Tablets of the Missing. This cemetery though is often overlooked by researchers because of the larger one at St. Laurent-Sur-Mer.

You can contact them, if mailing from the United States, by writing:

Brittany American Cemetery
Paris Embassy PSC 116
APO AE 09777 50240

The Normandy American Cemetery (St. Laurent-Sur-Mer) is located above Omaha Beach. It is this cemetery that is portrayed in Saving Private Ryan. If your uncle was one of those brave soldiers who gave his life during the landings at Normandy, then is it likely that he is buried here. There are 9,386 American soldiers buried here and another 1,557 names listed on Tablets of the Missing. This is another cemetery that doesn't have an adoption program as such.

To contact the cemetery from the United States, you can write them at:

Normandy American Cemetery
American Embassy Paris (ABMC)
PSC 116 APO AE 09777

Normandy Online

One of the first things that I do when I am working on a new research problem is see what I can find online. And this was not different. There were some interesting links to sites that you may want to check out:

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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