Several agencies were created by the American Graves Registration Service during World War II in the European Theater of Operations. These are the following:
Graves Registration Service, USAFBI
In World War II the first United States graves registration agency in Europe was established on 21 April 1942. Colonel William H. Middleswart was designated chief but continued to service as Quartermaster, USAFBI (United States Army Forces in the British Isles).
When the Services of Supply, USAFBI, was established a month later, Brigadier General Robert M. Littlejohn was appointed Chief Quartermaster. He arrived in London on 4 June 1942. When the European Theater of Operations was established four days later, the Office of the Chief Quartermaster, SOS, ETOUSA, began operations as Number 1, Great Cumberland Place. Colonel Middleswart was apointed Deputy Chief Quartermaster, with offices at Theater Headquarters on Grosvenor Square. Here Major Frazier E. Mackintosh, his executive officer, administered graves registration until 1 August, when Brigadier General Littlejohn appointed Major Jean K. Stacy Chief of the Graves Registration Division.
Graves Registration Service, OCQM
The Office of the Chief Quartermaster had been moved to Cheltenham shortly before Major Stacy took charge. Here four additional officers and necessary clerical personnel were assigned to the Graves Registration Divison. No other changes were made until November. Then the division was reduced to branch status and made part of the Executive Division. It was transferred several weeks later to the Installations Division. Although the name of the Installations Division was changed soon afterwards to the Service Installations Division, no changes were made in its organization. The Chief Quartermaster explained , however that the division would unquestionably be subdivided as the troop strength of the European Theater increased. Because graves registration activities were then limited, the Graves Registration Branch was composed of two sections: the Control Section, concerned with the supervision of burials and the marking and registration of graves; and the Operations Section, concerned with the selection and operation of cemeteries.
By the end of July 1943, however many changes had been taken place within OCQM. In May the surrender of the German forces in Tunisia had conluded the operations in North Africa and cleared the way for intensified Continental planning. Consequently, the fourth edition of the BOLERO Key Plan and the first OVERLORD plan had been issued by mid-July. In line with this accent on planning, OCQM had been split into two echelons. The operations echelon, consisting of those divisions that dealt with field operations, had remained in Cheltenham; while the planning echelon, consisting of the Plans and Training Division and part of the Executive Division, had moved back to London to be closer to the agencies planning the Continental operations. The Graves Registration Branch of the Service Installations Division again had been given division status and had been placed under the control of Major Maurice Whitney. On 16 November 1943 the division consisted of 5 officers, 14 enlisted men, and 3 British civilians. At the same time, instructions relative to the operation of the Office of the Effects Quartermaster were published.
An Effects Quartermaster Division had been set up by the Commanding General, SOS, ETO-USA, on 28 July 1942 to make final disposition of all personal effects of deceased personnel and of lost or unclaimed bagage. It had been orginally established at the London Quartermaster Depot but had been moved on 15 May 1943 to the General Depot at Liverpool and designated the Office of the Effects Quartermaster. The Effects Quartermaster was appointed by the Theater Commander upon the recommendation of the Chief Quartermaster. On 15 March 1944, after the relationship of the Effects Quartermaster to OCQM had been firmly established, the Graves Registration and Effects Division, OCQM, was created under Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Whitney. The Division was moved to London a few weeks later and on 21 May 1944 Lieutant Colonel Arthur C. Ramsey was placed in charge.
Other Graves Registration Agencies
By the middle of May the division was rounding out OVERLORD plans. Standing Operations Procedure No.26, ETOUSA, Burials and Effects, had been completed, though not published. Adequate supplies and equipment had been accumulated and scheduled for shipment to the Continent with graves registration platoons. The emergency cemeteries along the Channel Coast were ready, and a graves registration compandy had been sent to the marshalling areas to handle bodies evacuated from the Continent.
Meanwhilethe Forward Echelon of the Communications Zone (FECZ), which had been established on 10 March 1944 to complete all Communication Zone planning for the period D-Day-plus-90-day, had taken many officers from OCQM. Among these was Lieutenant Colonel Whitney, who had been named Chief of the Graves Registration and Effects Division, FECZ. The lack of proper coordination between the graves registration offices of OCQM and FECZ, however, brought about a duplication of records and instructions, with the result that shortly after D-Day some 10,000 army burial reports had gone to FECZ rather than to OCQM. The situation was somewhat alleviated by increasing the enlisted strength of the Graves Registration and Effects Division, OCQM from 10 to 15 enlisted men. This allowed “assembly line” processing to be set up.
Although officers continued to be assigned to the division before OCQM moved to France on 15 August 1944, most of them had been transferred to other organizations by the time the move actually took place. During the first 2 weeks of June five were assigned; but in July one was transferred to ADSEC (Advanced Section, Communication Zone ETO) and two were assigned to the United Kingdom Base. On 13 August 1944, 4 days before OCQM sailed for Cherbourg, Lieutenant Colonel Earl Sechrest was placed in charge.
Agencies for Invasion
The move to the Continent completely stopped the processing of burial records for about a week. When operations were resumed, graves registration officials learned that isolated burials were greater than had been anticipated. Consequently, the division was expanded to 5 officers, 33 enlisted men, and several French civilians; Standing Operating Procedure No.26 was restudied and modified; and a system for reporting isolated burials was instituted. The rapid advance of the armies and the early turnover of cemeteries to the Communications Zone necessitated the immediate preparation of plans for perpetual care, beautification, and maintainance of cemeteries. Supplies were requisitioned, and labor companies were assigned to the Normandy Base Section to do the work. Although these supplies were already available, it became apparant that graves registation companies lacked vehicles and certain other items of equipment. Consequently, a suggested revision of Tables of Organization and Equipment No. 10-297 was sent to the War Department for approval.
The Graves Registration and Effects Division hand undergone little change when it began operations in Paris in September 1944; and none were made until 5 November, when Colonel Michael H. Zwicker replaced Lieutenant Colonel Sechrest. An organization chart showing the functions of each branch appears appendix II.
By the end of 1944, 40 cemeteries had been established in the European Theater and 64,628 American Soldiers had been buried. By that time procedures and policies had been defined. Large “sweeping” programs for the discovery of isolated burials had been inaugurated in all commands. Improved systems had been developed for evacuating bodies from isolated graves to military cemeteries and for identifying unknown remains. Graves registration had become one of the most important quartermaster functions. The Graves Registration and Effects Division had been set up in a seperate building on the Rue Pierre Charron in Paris.
Major General Littlejohn, however, was still dissatisfied with the organization of the division. He wrote The Quartermaster General on 25 December 1944 that graves registration activities would continue in the European Theater long after the war -perhaps for 4 or 5 years- and asked that an umber of qualified officers be sent to OCQM, one of whom would be appointed chief of the division. On 2 Januari 1945, however, before a reply could reach the Theater, Colonel Beny Rosaler was appointed to that position. When several of the officers that Major General Litlejohn had requested arrived a month later, Colonel Henry W. Bobrink replaced Colonel Rosaler.
The Southern Line of Communications (SOLOC) was absorbed by the European Theater in February 1945, and the Chief Quartermaster became responsible for the support of the American and Allied forces in Southern France. Brigadier General William H. Middleswart, who had been Quartermaster of SOLOC, was appointed Deputy Chief Quartermaster for administration and was given technical control of the Accounts, Executive, Personnel and Training, Research and Development, and Graves Registration and Effects Divisions.
Agencies for Occupation
During March and April 1945 impetus was given the planning for the army of occupation. The first quartermaster organization for the occupational forces was proposed on 28 April 1945. This organization, patterned after OCQM, would consist of a chief quartermaster, a deputy, a director of organization, a director of supply, and 10 divisions. The Graves Registration and Effects Division would be made up 3 officers and 20 enlisted men under the technical control of the director of administration. The Office of the Quartermaster, Occupational Forces, Germany was established in Frankfurt on 20 June 1945 under the command of Brigadier General John B. Franks, whose office contained a graves registration and effects branch under the Installations Division.
Shortly thereafter vast changes began to take place within OCQM itself. On 1 July ETOUSA was dissolved and a command known as United States Forces, European Theater, (USFET), was established under General Eisenhower. On the same day the Graves Registration Service Command, USFET, was established under the technical support of the Chief Quartermaster. Brigadier General James Y. Younger, former Quartermaster, Twelfth Army Group, was later appointed Commanding General, Graves Registration Service Command.
Agencies for Repatriation
When news reached Washington late in December 1944 that the German counterattack in the Ardennes had been stopped, the War Department, believing that the end of the war against Germany would come in a few months, took steps to establish the agencies that would eventually bring American military dead to United States soil.
The American Graves Registration Service
The War Department republished on 1 January 1945 the order that had been issued in September 1943 establishing the American Graves Registration Service under the OQMG and instructed theater commanders to organize graves registration services. It issued at the end of the month a plan for organizing theater or area graves registration service commands.
These are commands would assume responsibility for military cemeteries from the time that service troops no longer would be needed to support combat forces until responsibility for cemeteries would pass to the zone of interior. During this period the area commands would be under the jurisdiction of the theater quartermaster. After the discontinuance of theaters The Quartermaster General would assume responsibility for the following fucntions: the care and maintenance of United States temporary cemeteries, the exhumation and repatriation of United States dead, the transference of Allied and enemy dead to appropiate nations, the rehabilitation of abandoned cemeterial lands and their return to rightful owners, and the reception and orientation of visiting relatives and friends of United States dead and representatives of various governments and others acting in an official capacity regarding graves registration activities.
The Plan proposed that the headquarters of the graves registration service area command for the European area be composed of 193 people: 44 officers, 7 warrant officers, and 142 enlisted men. Civilians would probably be substituted for enlisted men, however, because of the length of time needed to complete the task. This headquarters would formulate policies governing the international relations of the American Graves Registration Service. It would obtain and control civilian personnel needed to carry on its activities. It would inspect all graves registration activities and facilities in its area. It would be composed of at least 4 major divisions and 14 branches or sections. It would control the work of 5 zones. Each zone would be made up of 119 people: 22 officers, 2 warrant officers, 3 enlisted men and 92 civilians. These zones in turn would control 31 field sections. Each field section would be a mobile unit composed of 5 teams: a cemeterial team, a cemeterial augmentation team, an exhumation team, an exhumation augmentation team, and a reception team.
The cemeterial teams would care for cemeteries that did not contain more than 1,440 graves. In larger cemeteries one cemeterial augmentation team would be added for each 720 graves. Exhumation teams would exhume, identify, embalm and prepare bodies for permanent burial or shipment to the United States. One team would handle 12 bodies daily, and one augmentation team would be added for each additional 12 bodies. The reception teams would recieve, transport, and guide visitors. Each field section would be composed of 95 people: 6 officers and 44 enlisted men for the teams, and 3 officers and 42 enlisted men for the overhead.
Each zone would also have 2 port quartermaster offices, which would recieve, inspect, test, distribute, and repair caskets and other supplies from the United States, and supervise the shipment of bodies to the United States. Each office would be composed of 50 people: 3 officers, 1 warrant officer, 2n enlisted men and 44 civilians. In addition to this organized strength, the 5 zones would employ at least 2,316 laborers at ports and cemeteries. Thus, the graves registration service command for the European area would consits of approximtely 6,500 people.
This organization would be developed in four succesive periods. The first period would begin when it became impracticable to continue using quartermaster graves registration companies for cemetery work. Then field sections would develop cemeterial teams to take over the care and maintenance of cemeteries. The second period would begin when, because of redeployment or other reasons, sections or base sections could no longer provide technical services or facilities and graves registration field sections would have to become self-sufficient. Then zones would be established. The third period would begin when commercial transport facilities were opened for civilian travel and visitors could begin their trips to cemeteries. Then field sections would be enlarged to include reception teams. The fourth period would begin when provisions had been made for the repatriation of the dead and the establishment of permanent cemeteries. Then exhumation teams would be added to the field sections and the headquarters for the area command would be formed.
The Chief Quartermaster did not take any action to establish a graves registration service area command until the summer of 1945. In the first place, the war was still going on; and the Graves Registration and Effects Division was responsible, through graves registration comanies, for all burial and cemeterial activities. Secondly, he had already partly complied with the directive in September 1944. Then he had created the First Quartermaster Group and had given it control of the cemeteries in the Normandy Base Section.