BRADFORD, Pa. — James L. Uber, a native of the Kane area, has been missing since October 8, 1918, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France during World War I.
However, since his dog tag made its way to the Pennsylvania National Guard Museum in 2019, a group of volunteers have a pretty good idea of where the young corporal is buried.
Robert Laplander and Mike Cunha of Doughboy MIA have done the research, sifted through volumes of historical documents, maps and photos, and even toured France, walking the ground of this deadly battle of more than
A death notice uncovered through research stated that Uber was struck in the temple around 11 a.m. on October 8, 1918 by a “(machine gun) bullet. He lived for about 15 minutes and was on his way to the aid station when he died. His body was picked up and buried by a detachment from Co. B, 112th Inf.
Laplander explained that World War I information is hard to find. A massive fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed much of the information.
“They didn’t throw anything away,” he said, adding that officials have been trying to piece together records ever since. “There is no list of what has been recovered and what has not.”
Uber’s case is believed to be among the lost. Laplander has a copy of his “blank burial place”, which is filled in by whoever oversees the burial of the lost soldier. Uber did not provide the exact location of the grave.
When someone died in battle, they were buried in “private cemeteries”, of which about 1,700 were identified by the end of the war. The soldier’s dog tags were separated, one remained with the body and one went on a makeshift headstone.
This is the Uber gravestone tag that Laplander says was found and returned to the US
The remains of most of the soldiers were recovered and taken home. However, many burial sites have been lost over time.
“There was still heavy fighting in that area for a few days after (Uber) was killed,” Laplander said. The marker was probably separated from the grave.
Because Uber’s remains were not located, he had no criminal record. The researchers therefore searched for the files of other people killed in the same place during this battle “to give us more clues as to what happened to these guys”.
A volunteer from their group lives in France and found maps and photos to help with the search. Using Google Maps and photos taken by the Signal Corps in the 1930s, they were able to map the area where Uber was allegedly killed.
Using plan books and whatever information they could find, the volunteers marked everything on maps to show where people were buried, including the bodies of five unknown soldiers.
They were able to track down the young man in France who originally located Uber’s dog tag, and he showed them where he found it.
Then the volunteers went to France and took a look for themselves. They met the mayor of the city and a representative of the Ministry of Culture of France and were able to walk around the site of the battlefield.
“Now we had even more starting points to look at,” Laplander said. Using information from files of other deceased men in the vicinity, he was able to narrow the list down to four possible names for three sets of unknown remains found there.
Uber may have been one of them.
“We believe Jim was taken as a stranger and his tag was not with his body,” Laplander said. “We are 75% sure that he is buried as a stranger in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery.”
Cunha said there were 486 unknown soldiers in this cemetery.
And that’s as far as the Doughboy MIA was able to take the case, because the National Personnel Records Center has been essentially closed since the pandemic began.
“All documents related to the unknowns, all missing,” Laplander said. It may have burned down in the 1973 fire, but Laplander hopes it’s somewhere, mislabeled, and can one day be salvaged.
The search for the course. James Uber is suspended, Laplander said, “we will not investigate further until we can find the documents.”
Cunha said Doughboy MIA will return to France in August to investigate further cases.
“It’s not always about recovery,” he said. “Commemoration is the number one thing for us.”
Meanwhile, Uber has not been forgotten. The Ludlow American Legion is the James Uber Post 489, and one of its distant cousins was found in Tennessee.