Soldier Recently Accounted For Receives Bronze Rosette at Epinal American Cemetery

In Dinozé, France, thousands of miles from the United States, French citizens gathered in the rain at Epinal American Cemetery on November 10, 2018 to honor an American soldier who died more than seven decades ago.  François Picoche, mayor of Dinozé,  placed a bronze rosette next to the name of Pfc. Fred W. Ashley on the Walls of the Missing. The rosette indicates that Ashley now rests in a known grave and is no longer considered missing in action.

Just days before World War II ended in Europe, Ashley, serving in the 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Group, died on May 4, 1945 on a reconnaissance in the former Czechoslovakia.  German soldiers attacked his platoon, and reports from Ashley’s unit indicated he was last seen being taken away by German troops. When Ashley was not among the American prisoners liberated from German captivity and no remains were recovered, he was considered missing in action.  To honor him, the American government engraved his name on the Walls of the Missing at Epinal American Cemetery along with more than 400 other service members  who died in the area and whose remains were not recovered.

In September 1991, Ashley’s sister contacted U.S. Army Mortuary Affairs, regarding the location of her brother’s remains. She reported that shortly after the war the family received a letter from the U.S. Army stating that local civilians had discovered Ashley’s gravesite. The chief of Mortuary Affairs and Casualty Support Division then responded that remains recovered from an isolated grave in Gutwasser, Czechoslovakia were originally believed to be Ashley, however, subsequent examination revealed the remains, known as X-239 St. Avold, were not his.

Years later, following thorough research and analysis, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA)
recommended the disinterment of these remains, X-239 St. Avold, that were once believe to be that of Ashley. The remains were exhumed and transferred to DPAA’s laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.  In April 2018, DPAA identified X-239 St. Avold as Flight Officer Richard Lane W. Lane, who had been identified in 1946 and buried with full military honors in Gage County, Nebraska.

On June 14, 2018, the remains that had been previously misidentified as Lane were disinterred from Filley Cemetery in Nebraska and accessioned into the DPAA laboratory. To identify Ashley’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence. DPAA accounted for Ashley on August 27, 2018 and he was buried in his Idaho hometown on October 20, 2018.

Nearly 79,000 Americans who died in World War II are honored on Walls of the Missing at ABMC sites around the globe. This is the 14th name at Epinal American Cemetery to receive a rosette.