The American Programme for the Dead

The Americans were running a parallel graves and missing research programme over much of the same territory as the British. They carried out similar procedures, but performed an additional, highly extensive series of duties because bereaved relatives were offered the choice of having their dead repatriated. (No repatriation in any circumstances was permitted for the British dead.)

The two American services which carried out the care of the American dead were the Graves Registration Service and its successor the American Graves Registration Service. Both organisations wrote an account of their work, but whilst that of the Graves Registration Service is short and to the point, that of the American Graves Registration Service, published in 1957, is 700 pages long and immensely detailed.*

The Americans made both an art and a science out of their burial and identification procedures, which formed a strong contrast to the frequently ad hoc arrangements of the British.

* Study Number 107: Graves Registration Service, Reports of the General Board, United States Forces, European Theater, undated but around November 1945 (see Appendix 1, letter from QMG, Chief of Staff, dated 24 November 1945).

Edward Steere and Thayer M Boardman, Final Disposition of World War II Dead 1945-51, US Army, Quartermaster Corps, QMC Historical Studies, Series II, No. 4 (Historical Branch Office of the Quartermaster General, Washington, D.C., 1957).