Unknown US Soldier from WWI to Be Laid to Rest

Unknown US Soldier from WWI to Be Laid to Rest

Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France.
Photo by: U.S. Army

For the first time in 35 years, the remains of an unknown U.S. soldier from World War I will be buried in an American cemetery in France.

Officials with the American Battle Monuments Commission will carry out the burial on June 7 at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in northern France. It will be the first burial of an American unknown from World War I since 1988.

The soldier’s remains were discovered in February 2022 by a French undertaker excavating a new grave in the village cemetery of Villers-sur-Fère, according to the commission’s documentation of the discovery. The site is about 62 miles northeast of Paris, where in the summer of 1918 there was fierce combat between American and German forces.

The undertaker discovered the human remains as well as American field equipment and ammunition, in what appeared to be a hasty burial of a World War I-era soldier, the document says.

Among the items found were the remains of a 1917 steel helmet used by American troops, U.S. insignia buttons, a model 1917 U.S. trench knife, a metal cross arm of a U.S.-issue stretcher, remnants of a round U.S. identification tag, and U.S.-issue .30-06 ammunition, dated 1917, that were still in their ammunition pouches, according to the document.

The identification tag was fragmented, corroded and illegible, but it was identifiable by its shape and the small hole for a chain. The soldier could not be identified, but French, British and American historians concurred that the remains were those of an American soldier, according to the document.

Identification of the remains could not be carried out by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency or the U.S. Army’s Past Conflict Repatriations Branch and Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division, because the two organizations do not have the authority to recover or repatriate remains of servicemen who died in conflicts prior to World War II, the document explains.

The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains 23 World War I and World War II cemeteries in France and around the world. Among the 30,973 servicemen buried in the commission’s World War I cemeteries are 1,600 unknowns, according to a commission news release.

The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery is in Seringes-et-Nesles, France, about 2 1/2 miles from the temporary cemetery where the U.S. soldier was buried. The June 7 burial ceremony will include a full military honors funeral procession and burial with remarks by U.S. and French officials, a World War I-era 75 mm artillery salute and historic World War I biplane flyover.

Learn more about the commission here.