Military Monday -Examining WWII Death Records For a Non-Recoverable Soldier

It’s Monday and that means a new installment in the world of military records! As you read through this series, please keep in mind I’m discussing World War II records only. While there is a lot of overlap between other wars and records, the focus here is only World War II. Today we will examine components of an IDPF for a non-recoverable, identified soldier. If you missed the post about common elements of an IDPF, you can view that now.

 Once Upon A Time……..

Once upon a time there was a soldier named Lawrence Block and a researcher looking for information on a POW who had an IDPF. She stumbled upon a forum post about the adoption of a grave at Margraten, Holland for a Lawrence Block. So she began to dig. First, she obtained his IDPF and then she found a set of nine documents (all written in German) on Fold3.com concerning his imprisonment and murder. Currently, she is having these documents fully translated as she begins the search for other pieces of information on this soldier. Military research is a slow process which requires as much patience as genealogy research.

The more the researcher read the information on Lawrence, the more she wanted to know his story. Lawrence was a Private First Class, serial number 19082844, member of Company “A”, 12th Infantry Regiment. Company “A” was moving from Bech, Luxembourg to Echternach, Luxembourg on 16 December 1944, to reinforce Company “G” and the last place they were seen was Hill 313. Apparently this Company was ambushed by the Germans and only one man escaped. The others were captured and sent to Stalag IIIA in Altengrabow, Germany.

During his time at Stalag IIIA, Lawrence traded with the Russian POWs and during one of these trading sessions, he was murdered by the Prison Guards. He was then buried in Stalag IVA’s cemetery. His remains were never recovered because after the war, the Russians took control of that area and it became a Soviet Training Ground for their Army. The Soviets would not allow our Graves Registration teams to enter and attempt to recover remains and by 21 October 1953, Lawrence was memorialized as a Non-Recoverable Remain and listed on Margraten’s Wall of the Missing.

Lawrence’s IDPF

Lawrence’s IDPF has the usual documentation one would find in any other IDPF (you can view a complete copy below.) An important piece of documentation is the Missing Report shown here. Examine the information found on this document. We are able to identify him in a specific unit, at a specific time, and place.

Lawrence Block Missing Report

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, “Missing Report” Lawrence Block, SN 19082844.

The file contains a lot of testimony surrounding his disappearance, imprisonment, murder, burial, and status of recovery. You can read some of this starting on page 24 of his IDPF.

There are many Narratives of Investigation included that discuss the research path the Graves Registration Service men took to locate, recover and identify remains of those soldiers that were disinterred. Unfortunately Lawrence was not one of them. You can read the two-page narrative starting on page 11 of his IDPF. Several soldiers were recovered only to discover none of them was Lawrence. The file contains a map of the cemetery where the disinternments took place. See below.

Lawrence Block map

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, “Prisoner of War Cemetery at Altengrabrow Map,” Lawrence Block, SN 19082844.

Want the full story as told through the IDPF? You can read Lawrence’s entire IDPF here.

 Fold3.com Documents

On Fold3.com I found a set of nine pages called “Shooting of American POW Lawrence Block.” These documents outline the testimony provided by the German guards and other POWs who witnessed or knew of Lawrence Block’s murder. These documents provide birth date, death date, circumstances of death, date of death, and location of burial. Valuable information on a soldier.

Non-Recoverable Status

Unfortunately due to Soviet take-over of the former POW camp, Lawrence Block was never recovered. The government made a last attempt in 1952 to gain access to the area to attempt to disinter possible American soldiers. The Soviets denied admission to the area. After an examining board reviewed the entire file and narrative regarding the final attempt to disinter in the Soviet controlled area, Lawrence Block was made a Non-Recoverable status and Memorialized on the Tables of the Missing at Margraten Cemetery.

Lawrence Block MemorializiationWhat’s Next for Lawrence?

Lawrence was survived by a widow and step-daughter. It is possible that his widow remarried and no one was left to wonder about his remains. Today, his name has been adopted at Margraten and that individual is looking for more information so Lawrence is not forgotten. To learn more about Lawrence’s life and death, POW records through the National Archives need to be accessed. Morning Reports need to be requested and analyzed to outline his service. Any existing service records can also be analyzed to put the story into greater perspective. Also, the history of what Company “A” was doing in Luxembourg in December 1944 as the Battle of the Bulge was getting underway is important. Without that historical context, his story has less value. Want to know what else was going on in that area of Luxembourg? You can read an article in an Omaha newspaper, in which Mike Boehler is quoted, Act of Mercy Amid Brutal Winter Fighting in Battle of the Bulge.

Will more of Lawrence’s story appear in these blog posts? Perhaps. It depends on what information I locate and how quickly I locate it as I work through writing and posting. Stay tuned. You never know when an extra post will appear with his story.

Next week I will wrap up the Examination of Death Records by showing you a few other interesting features in some of these files and talk about those service members who died state-side rather than overseas. And I’ll answer the million dollar question – is there a death certificate?

Like what you’ve seen and want to know more? Sign up for my newsletter on my author website. For military research and writing services, or to book a lecture on military records, please contact me through my website Generations.

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© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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2 thoughts on “Military Monday -Examining WWII Death Records For a Non-Recoverable Soldier

  1. David Arocha

    Just would like to express my gratitude for this story of PFC. Block. Like so many other Americans during World War Two, he was lost and never recovered. Even after all this time, he is remembered……….. May he rest in peace

    • David,
      Thank you for stopping by my blog. There are so many who were unrecovered or still MIA from WWII. As they cross my path through my research, I plan to make sure they are remembered.
      Jennifer

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