Missing in Action but Still Close to Heart
Many passed-down family legends and stories contain enough information to confirm or deny their truths. Here's how one family story was brought home after more than sixty years of not knowing the fate of a beloved uncle.
Alice told the story to her family as she knew it: Her Uncle Hubert was born about 1922 and was raised in Mississippi. He began working at Western Union in junior high or high school delivering messages to the community on his bicycle, and when he graduated high school, he was asked by the company to be a manager for them on the coast in Mississippi. She was unsure of the year, but after Hubert moved and settled into life in south Mississippi, he was drafted to serve in World War II.
Alice remembered that shortly after he enlisted, she was at a family gathering at her mother’s house near Christmas. A telegram arrived informing them that he was missing in action. They never knew where he was when he disappeared, and because they never heard from him again, they presumed that he’d died. Alice wanted to know what really happened.
According to the 134th Infantry Regiment website and the World War II and Korean Conflict Veterans Interred Overseas database, Hubert was inducted from Mississippi in April 1944 and served as a Private First Class in the 35th Division, 134th Infantry Regiment, Battalion 1, Company C.
Research into the 134th Regiment revealed what happened to Hubert. At Lorraine, France, the 134th was given the mission of crossing the Blies River to capture the town of Habkirchen, Germany. Their efforts to cross began on the evening of December 11, 1944 and continued into the day of December 12, 1944.
Even though they made the best plans possible given the circumstances, the lives of many servicemen in the 134th Infantry Regiment were lost to the river during the mission. The river was “swift and deep,” and the 134th Infantry Regiment Unit Journals indicate the weather was “cold, cloudy, and windy” in the early morning of December 12, 1944. The supply of assault boats sent to the regiment for use in crossing was only half the number they needed to successfully cross. Some battalions were able to obtain a very few small, rubber boats to use in substitution of the sturdier assault boats. Possibly because boats were too few, some soldiers crossed the river by swimming. Company C is documented as having crossed the river by 7:30 a.m.to begin the fighting to take Habkirchen.
Hubert was one of the Company C men presumed to have died in the early morning hours of December 12, 1944 while attempting to cross the Blies. He served only eight months and is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint-Avold, Departement de la Moselle, Lorraine, France. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
Alice's family story was true... her uncle had disappeared in WW2, and she finally knew the whole story after sixty years of wondering.
Is there a family story you'd like to know more about? Is there a family legend you would like to investigate? Southern Heritage Genealogy can help.
Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint-Avold, Departement de la Moselle, Lorraine, France
Photo used with permission and courtesy of American Battle Monuments Commission
The legend's source citation: Alice Cowart Zumbro, (address held in the records of interviewer), interviews by Kim Richardson, 23 December 2008 and 26 November 2013; notes held privately by the interviewer, (address for private use), Oxford, Mississippi, 2016. Alice spoke from her personal knowledge when relating information about Hubert Whitehead.
Other sources cited through hyperlinks in article.