Group closer to finding remains of WWI soldier from McKean County
By Marcie Schellhammer
via The Bradford Era newspaper (PA) web site
BRADFORD, Pa. — Kane-area native James L. Uber has been missing in action since Oct. 8, 1918, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France in World War I.
However, since his dog tag made its way to the Pennsylvania National Guard Museum in 2019, a group of volunteers have a pretty good idea of where the young corporal is buried.
Robert Laplander and Mike Cunha of Doughboy M.I.A. have done the research, combed volumes of historical records, maps and photos, and even visited France, walking the ground of that deadly battle of more than a century ago.
A death statement uncovered through research read that Uber was struck in the temple about 11 a.m. Oct. 8, 1918, by a “(machine gun) bullet. He lived about 15 minutes and was on his way to dressing station when he died. His body was taken care of and buried by a detail from Co. B, 112th Inf.”
Laplander explained information from World War I is hard to track down. A massive fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed much of the information.
“They didn’t throw anything away,” he said, adding that officials have been trying to rebuild the records ever since. “There is no list of what was salvaged and what was not.”
Uber’s file is thought to be among the lost. Laplander has a copy of his “grave location blank,” which is filled out by whoever oversees the burial of the lost soldier. Uber’s didn’t give the grave’s specific location.
When someone died in battle, they were buried in “private cemeteries,” of which about 1,700 were identified by the end of the war. The soldier’s dog tags were separated, one stayed with the body and one went on a makeshift grave marker.
It is Uber’s grave marker tag that Laplander believes was found and returned to the U.S.
The remains of most soldiers were retrieved and taken home. However, many of the burial spots were lost to time.
“There was still heavy fighting in that area for a few days after (Uber) was killed,” Laplander said. The marker was likely separated from the grave.
Because Uber’s remains were not located, he did not have a casualty record. So researchers looked for files of others who were killed in the same location during that battle “to give us more clues of what happened to those guys.”
Read the entire article on the Olean Times Herald web site.
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