Which bears a sword
Can pierce an armed man.
It hurls its barbed syllables,
And is mute again.
But where it fell
The saved will tell
On patriotic day,
Some epauletted brother
Gave his breath away.
Wherever roams the day,
There is its noiseless onset,
There is its victory!
Behold the keenest marksman!
The most accomplished shot!
Time’s sublimest target
Is a soul “forgot”!
----- Emily Dickinson
Far too many men who went to war in Europe in World War II have never been found and identified. Many have been found who have not been identified. This page is an attempt to list all of the numbers that were assigned to unknowns, as well as the associated information about where and when they were recovered and their names, if they were subsequently identified.
I realized that I needed a list like this in my own research. Often, when I examine one man's IDPF, I find that he was recovered with someone who was shown only with an unknown-number (e.g. X-2319). It would be very useful in my research to know who the other man was and to obtain his IDPF and see if it has more information that can shed light on the situation in which they died.
I tried to obtain one from the American Battle Monuments Commission, since the Ardennes US Military Cemetery (at Neupré-en-Condroz, Belgium) was the place where remains were sent for possible identification after the war -- and is thus the cemetery with the greatest number of burials of unknowns. However, my efforts were in vain. So I simply started a spreadsheet to record what I find in the records that I do have and began posting it on this web page, in case it is of use to others.
There is also a Grave Registration Information section following the list of unknowns. This section provides bibliographical information on links to documents and web sites with relevant information. This in turn grew to include the Temporary Cemeteries in the European Theater of Operations section, which has a wealth of information.
One useful external tool in all this will be the American Battle Monuments Commission's World War II Honor Roll. Another important tool is the World War II Registry of the National World War II Memorial.
I will reply to queries about any of the ones on this page. I'm really swamped and my health has definite limits, especially from October-May. So I will not be able to reply very promptly, and I cannot give you more information about any man who is not on this page. Having read that, if your inquiry is truly relevant to this page, you can contact me by clicking here.
See the end of the page for a list of the temporary U. S. military cemeteries in the ETO and a link to the complete 1946 grave plots of the temporary Henri-Chapelle (Belgium) U. S. Military Cemetery.
Clearly one would think that there must have been a master list of all the X-numbers assigned in the European Theater. Yet, when one family of a still-missing man asked for such a list, they were told (2009) that no such list existed" "There is currently no master list of all X-numbered files for the ETO." And after having tried to find such a list at the National Archives, I see that if there is still such a list, then it is probably waiting somewhere in a non-obvious place.
I did find definitive evidence that such a list did in fact exist as late as 1960. In the investigation of remains X-9345 (Frankfurt Mausoleum), there was a need to find information about another X-number, and the investigators documented that they had sought that X-number in "Roster in Disposition Branch showing disposition of Unknown X-Nos. (remains)". So there clearly was just such a list. So the question remains "Where is the official roster of Unknown X-numbers?"
The American World War II Orphans Network (AWON) is an organization created by and for those who lost their father in World War II. AWON has an annual conference and a newsletter filled with useful information. Click here to go to the AWON web page and find those who share your experience.
There were two numbering systems: T-numbers (assigned by the British) and X-numbers (assigned by the U.S.). Men who fought in purely American zones received only an X-number. Men who died in zones that the British then occupied and searched received a British T-number and were reported to the U.S. Graves Registration Service. If the American team that eventually recovered the remains could not identify them, then the American team assigned an X-number to the remains. The X-numbers were specific to the U.S. Military Cemetery to which the GRS team was attached. So there would be an X-37 for Margraten and also an X-37 for Neuville, for example.
All other numbers are in black.
Yet another numbering system was the case numbers for non-recoverable remains. For example, Aloysius Gonsowski (X-9438) was originally (in 1950) considered non-recoverable in case # 14421. There was even yet another numbering system, in which Gonsowski was # 9158, on a 30 Aug 1947 memo included with a 20 Aug 1950 memorandum concerning the 7887 Graves Registration Detachment decision of non-recoverability of Holland Cases # 810, 1756, 2215, 4820, 5178, 5205, 5364, 8853, 8858, 8867, 9158 [Gonsowski], 9373, 9386, 9436, 9454, 9467, 10162, 10227, 10459, 10460, 10483, 10522, 10533, 10540, 11637, 11702, 5790, 10490, 5823, 9370, 8748, 9167, 5773, 5738, 9796, 8770, 9435, 1983. While these numbers were definitely extremely important to the process, I am not currently capturing these numbers, since the focus here is to try to identify specific unknowns mentioned in documents by their numbers.
In the list below, the T-numbers (in blue) are listed first and then the X-numbers (in red), in numerical order in each case. If there is no name after the number, then I do not know who the number belongs to.
There were other numbering schemes also used. For example, when a man went missing, he was assigned a case number. At this time, I am not trying to tie the unknown numbers back to the case numbers -- just to the names of the men, if they were identified or to the location and date at which still-unidentified remains were recovered.
293: "293" was the classification for all deceased personnel. So the number 293 appears on all Individual Deceased Personnel Files; the "293 file" is the IDPF. It is referenced with many variations: "QMGMF 293" (Nevins IDPF), "QMGMU 293" (Nevins IDPF), "293 file" (Nevins IDPF). "293 File of Subject(s)" on the QMG Form 1916 (Non-Recoverable Case Record of Review and Approval). All of the memoranda relating to board proceedings regarding decisions on non-recoverable remains have "GROP 293.9" at the top of the page, usually on the same line as the date. And other documents have "RRE 293.9 (IB)" and "GRU 293" at the top.
371: The number 371 which appears in many men's files refers to the Office of the Quartermaster General form OQMG 371 "DATA ON REMAINS NOT YET RECOVERED OR IDENTIFIED".
Ron Croft, who served as a U.S. GRS officer leading recovery of remains after the war, sent this clarification about how X-numbers were assigned:
|During my tenure, all of the "X-numbers" were accountable and controlled by the appropriate cemetery. We in the field were allocated a block of numbers by a cemetery and were accountable to them for the numbers. When we used a number, everything in the case dossier bore that number and the dossier was delivered to the cemetery with the remains and his personal effects. Since the dossiers effectively became the property of the cemetery, it follows that those records must reside at those cemeteries, unless they were "retired" to some other location|
An asterisk (*) indicates those cemeteries that later became permanent, although these were completely redesigned cemteries, which required the complete disinterrment of all remains in the temporary cemetery.
The number in square brackets is the Army-assigned code for the cemetery. Click here for a document listing all codes (thanks to Ted Darcy).