In researching what happened to the three Wilson brothers who lost their lives during World War II, I knew there was a cross for Daniel S. Wilson in a military cemetery in France. But I wasn’t the only one to wonder whether he was actually buried there.
The casualty documents in his 293 File were so thorough, so well maintained, that we were reassured his remains are indeed those buried under the cross with his name on it.
In late November, 1945, a British Graves Registration Team at Klagenfurt, Austria, first learned about where Lt. Daniel S. Wilson was buried, from captured Dulag-Luft (German) Reports. The British reported it to Headquarters, Graves Registration Service, Germany zone, along with other American losses. “Cemetery SCHWANBERG, the uppermost line; entrance on the left side. The grave is adorned.”
Dan’s parents didn’t know that an American Investigating Team interviewed officials in the Alpine village of Schwanberg, Austria.
His plane had hit a pole and crashed about two kilometers south of the railroad station at Schwanberg, Austria, in a forest along Sulm Creek in the snowy forested foothills of the Alps February 19, 1945. According to his casualty records, the dead American “Flying Lieutenant” found in the wreck was identified by his tags as Daniel S. Wilson. Wehrmacht soldiers kept the tags but turned the body over to village officials.
The next day, a man shoveled a grave at the edge of the Schwanberg cemetery, where Daniel S. Wilson was buried in a pine box provided by the village. The local Roman Catholic priest held a service, secretly, according to the documents. Attending were the bergermeister, the chief of police, and the grave digger.
Someone fashioned a wooden cross for the new grave–in the uppermost lines, entrance on the left side–marked “Daniel S. Wilson 19.2.1945.”
Unknown X-7341 is Reburied in a Temporary Cemetery, St. Avold, France
It had been over a year since the end of the war, and at least eight months since Clabe and Leora Wilson were notified that their son Dan’s grave had been located in Austria.
Here is information the Wilson family never learned about until my request for Daniel S. Wilson’s 293 File:
August 22, 1946, seven pages of “Report of Investigation Areas Search” were completed for “Unknown X-7341.” This unknown was believed to be Daniel Wilson, but because his identification tags were not with the body, positive identification could not be made. Chief of Police Franz Mueller and Bergermeister Hermann were interviewed for the report.
Unknown X-7341 was also disinterred that day from the Schwanberg cemetery, to be reburied in the new U.S. Military Cemetery at St. Avold, France.
On September 9, 1946, at St. Avold, France, at 3:00, in the afternoon, Lt. Daniel S. Wilson, formerly Unknown X-7341, was reburied between Unknown X-7330 and Unknown X-7318. Chaplain H.M. Trebaol conducted the service.
Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France
Dan Wilson’s remains were disinterred from the temporary cemetery April 23, 1948, and placed in a casket April 29 by Embalmer Elijah H. Fields, with 1st. Lt. James C. Anderson verifying all markings, tags, and plates. The body was complete, skull fractured, disarticulated, in final stage of decomposition. Report of Burial found with remains as “Unknown X-7341” – W0058 marked on wool drawers. (W0058 was the initial and last four digits of Dan Wilson’s military number.)
A letter dated March 2, 1949, from Major General Thomas B. Larkin, the Quartermaster General, informed Leora Wilson that the remains of her loved one had been permanently interred “side by side with comrades who also gave their lives for their country. Customary military funeral services were conducted over the grave at the time of burial.”
Lorraine American Cemetery covers more than 113 acres and contains the largest number of graves of our military dead of WWII in Europe, a total of 10,489. The cemetery was dedicated in 1960.
The first family members to pay respects at Danny Wilson’s grave didn’t happen until October 1997, when his sisters, Doris Wilson Neal and Darlene Wilson Scar, accompanied by my husband and me, made the journey.
Since then, Darlene’s son Dick Scar has been there, as well as one of my Neal cousins.
Every once in a while, I receives photos from folks from France who visit the grave, sometimes with school children to tell them about the Americans who lost their lives freeing their homeland from tyranny.
It is a comfort somehow to know the remains of Danny Wilson are cared for by the American Battle Monuments Commission, to know their journey from the snowy Alps of Austria to an American cemetery in France.
The complete story is part of What Leora Never Knew: A Granddaughter’s Quest for Answers.