The Lost Doughboys — The Hunt Continues for American MIAs from WW1

U.S. soldiers in the Argonne Forest. Many of the troops killed in the battle were never recovered. They remain among the thousands of American MIAs from WW1. (Image Source: US Army Signal Corps)

Hundreds of U.S. troops killed in the famous 1918 battle for the Argonne Forest were never recovered. They are among the thousands of Americans still listed as MIA from WW1. A new online project hopes to draw attention to their stories. (Image Source: US Army Signal Corps)

“Organizers hope that Doughboy MIA will help raise awareness of the sacrifices made a century ago by U.S. soldiers, sailors and marines during during the so called War to End All Wars.

AS MANY AS 4 million American military personnel served in the First World War. More than 110,000 of them never returned; 4,400 are still listed as missing in action.

Now with the 100th anniversary of U.S. involvement in the Great War fast approaching, the Washington D.C.-based United States World War One Centennial Commission is hoping to shine the spotlight on these forgotten warriors with a new project: Doughboy MIA.

The online initiative, which is fully accessible to the public, is home to a number of useful resources. Among them is a complete database of every unaccounted for American soldier from the campaign in France and the war at sea, as well as MIAs from the lesser-known Allied interventions in the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1920.

Organizers hope that Doughboy MIA will help raise awareness of the sacrifices made a century ago by U.S. soldiers, sailors and marines during during the so called War to End All Wars.

Fresh from the battlefields of France, U.S. troops embark for Northern Russia in 1918. More than 8,000 Americans fought in two separate campaigns against the Bolsheviks; some 300 died, 30 are still listed as MIA. (Image source: U.S. Army)

Fresh from the battlefields of France, U.S. troops embark for Northern Russia in 1918. More than 8,000 Americans fought in two separate campaigns against the Bolsheviks; some 300 died, 30 are still listed as MIA. (Image source: U.S. Army)

According to the project’s own founders, efforts to finally lay World War One’s missing combatants to rest have long since been overshadowed by MIAs from more recent American war: Vietnam.

“These days, when one speaks of soldiers missing in action, the first thought that comes to most people’s mind are those who were lost during the Vietnam War and the controversy that has long since surrounded them,” say organizers of the project. “Yet the truth is the issue didn’t start there. Far from it.”

For years following the 1918 Armistice, recovering the remains of unknown soldiers from the battlefields of France was the responsibility the U.S. Army Quartermasters CorpsGraves Registration Service. While scouring the terrain of the Western Front for more than a decade, investigators unearthed more than 1,600 fallen American soldiers – many of which were never positively identified. Even so, the bodies were transferred to nearby military cemeteries like the ones at Meuse-Argonne and St. Mihiel. By 1932, the military officially suspended recovery operations and transferred all outstanding cases to the American Battle Monuments Commission, the government agency that administers military cemeteries. Since then, the bodies of only 26 American personnel from the First World War have been located, the most recent of which was buried with honours in 2009.

Doughboy MIA hopes that next year’s centenary of the U.S. declarations of war on the Central Powers* will rekindle public interest in this forgotten sidebar of American history.

To visit the site yourself, CLICK HERE

* NOTE: The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, but didn’t declare war on Austria-Hungary until Dec. 7, 1917.

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