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Remains of WWII soldier returned home almost 70 years later

Remains of WWII Soldier Returned Home Almost 70 Years Later

The remains of a U.S. soldier who went missing in France during World War II were finally returned home to Tennessee on Wednesday.

Almost 70 years ago in 1945, the German military was pushing against Allied forces stationed in France in "The Battle of the Bulge." That's when Pfc. Cecil Harris disappeared without a trace.

Harris was just 19 when he left for war, leaving his pregnant wife Helen Cooke behind.

"The postman brought her a telegram that forever changed the course of her life. It simply stated that Cecil Harris was missing in action, " Reggie Asplund said.

According to the Department of Defense, the American Graves Registration Command searched for Harris's body in 1949 after the end of the war, but was unsuccessful.

It wasn't until 68 years later in 2013 that WJHL says a French hiker uncovered what looked like a grave around the area he went missing:

"A French citizen had found a grave near the German border. A stone on top was marked with the initial 'H' and a cross. Underneath bones, and dog tags - Cecil E. Harris, U.S," WJHL reported.

According to the Johnson City Press, that French hiker then contacted a historian specializing in the soldier's infantry division, who then reached out to Harris' son, William "Eddie" Harris.

"I really could not comprehend it. I thought someone was fooling me when that guy got in touch with me," Harris said.

Eddie, who never got to meet his father, spoke with WBIR when his father's body was returned to Tennessee.

"He was missing over there for about 70 years and he was buried in a grave less than two feet deep and he was there all them years, so I'm just glad to get him home with closure," he told WBIR.

Cecil's wife Helen, was amazed that his body was found

"I kept hoping that, you know, it was just such a long time. It's just amazing that they found him," she said.

Harris was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Combat Infantryman Badge. A funeral service was held on Friday and he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on October 22.

Join the discussion

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chucksantoro August 31 2014 at 5:07 PM

welcome home soldier

Flag Reply +25 rate up
randy822 August 31 2014 at 6:00 PM

That hiker took the time to do something that really turned out beneficial. We all should thank him.

Flag Reply +22 rate up
1 reply
Barbara randy822 August 31 2014 at 6:50 PM

AMEN ! Bless him or her who found the grave.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
defiant128 August 31 2014 at 4:37 PM

Thank you, Cecil. May you rest in peace and your family be comforted.

Flag Reply +19 rate up
thorrsman August 31 2014 at 5:00 PM

Welcome home, soldier.

Rest in peace, your mission is complete.

Flag Reply +18 rate up
1 reply
Heather thorrsman August 31 2014 at 8:26 PM

Welcome home Mr. Harris. R I P . I can't stop crying, and wondering what wonderful person, (stoped in the middle of a war, and burried him. What a kind and wonderful person....thank you also, whomever you are.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
plowboy611 August 31 2014 at 4:41 PM

Wow. Rest in peace now.

Flag Reply +17 rate up
buddwhyzr August 31 2014 at 6:40 PM

A proper burial at last. Thanks for your service soldier.

Flag Reply +16 rate up
point6000 August 31 2014 at 5:30 PM

Thank you Sir for your service and sacrifice beyond the call of duty.
May God hold you and keep you in his grace. Amen.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
steves1709 August 31 2014 at 5:23 PM

Comments for this story should be closed after the first 5 or so. What else needs to be said? Close it before the political posts are made. RIP Mr. H.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
Sonja August 31 2014 at 8:48 PM

what shame, all those years this poor man was lying so close to the german border.
im' german, born 1945 dec. My family lost everything too including my gran mothers husband, he was a german soldier. thanks to Adolf Hitler lot of suffering and misery.
RIP soldier , you are home now.
sincerly sonja wolff

Flag Reply +9 rate up
2 replies
Dianne Sonja September 01 2014 at 4:33 AM

Thank you for your post, Sonja. We all have to be remindful history has shown us time and time again: It only takes ONE to throw the world into chaos, loss, and unspeakable suffering.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
savannahswithgod Dianne September 01 2014 at 7:13 AM

It took a lot more than one don't be silly. Hitler's ideal on Euthanasia came from a post man who wanted to get close to Hitler and around that power. You take a lot of 'Ones' that want to make trouble then you got a problem. Or you take a lot as 'Ones' here in the USA with that Greed and you got a country on it's path towards total extinction. One, silly?

Flag 0 rate up
savannahswithgod Sonja September 01 2014 at 7:15 AM

Why is it a shame. Leave the dead to be. They are reincarnated and in another vehicle. The Lord who loved them knows where they are, that same Lord will always love them. Not even sure on the guy being put six feet under, the birds need food.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
rockingjoh August 31 2014 at 9:48 PM

Welcome home, thank you for your service and sacrifice for our nation. Rest in peace.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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