The horrors of the trenches of the Western Front have all but vanished from living memory with the passing of the last few Veterans of “The War to End All Wars”. But it is important that we remember, and that we honor the generation that bled so terribly on the soil of France to make the world “safe for democracy”.
One of those brave souls is surely remembered still in the family lore of succeeding generations, a United States Marine who went to France and never returned. He has been found at last:
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from World War I, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
U.S. Marine First Sergeant George H. Humphrey of Utica, N.Y., will be buried on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery. On Sept. 15, 1918, Humphrey participated in the first U.S.-led offensive of the war under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing. The battle with the Germans became known as the St. Mihiel Offensive. There were 7,000 Allied losses during this offensive and it was the first use of the American use of the term “D-Day” and the first use of tanks by American units.
Humphrey, a member of the U.S. 6th Marine Regiment, attached to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, was killed in action during the battle and his remains were buried by fellow Marines the next day. In October 1919, a Marine who witnessed the death wrote a letter to Humphrey’s brother recounting the attack near the village of Rembercourt. He included a map of his recollection of the burial site.
Attempts to locate Humphrey’s remains by U.S. Army Graves Registration personnel following the war were unsuccessful. In September 2009, French nationals hunting for war relics found artifacts near Rembercourt-sur-Mad they believed to be those of a World War I American soldier. A month later, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command excavated the area, recovering human remains and military-related items including a marksman’s badge with Humphrey’s name engraved on the back.
Welcome home, First Sergeant. The democracy that you fought to save remains, and those of us who know what you did are eternally grateful. Our admiration for your courage and that of your comrades bridges the generations and the decades.
Semper Fidelis. May you rest in eternal peace.
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