October 20, 2018 in Emmett, Idaho, Pfc. Fred W. Ashley, SN 39907750, Troop C, 2d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized), 2d Cavalry Group, will be returned to his family and laid to rest for the final time. I'm extremely proud to say he is being returned because of the hard work and determination of a few friends of mine and I.
Pfc. Ashley was the final trooper from the 2d Cavalry Group to die in combat during WW II. 1st platoon had set up a strong point in Paseka, Czechoslovakia and on May 4, 1945 were surrounded and ambushed by approximately 300 enemy. The platoon was captured and Pfc. George Buttron was killed in the attack. Four others were wounded, Pfc. Ashley severely. The Germans refused to allow Pfc. Ashley's troop mates to tend to his wounds, and when last seen he was being driven away on the hood of a captured jeep.
The platoon was rescued a few days later but there was no sign of Pfc. Ashley so he was listed as MIA as of May 4, 1945. When he was not among returned POW's after the war his status was changed to KIA on December 20, 1945.
In the meantime, a lone set of remains had been recovered by Graves Registration 4 miles from Paseka in early June 1945. The remains were sent to Nuremberg where they arrived June 10 and were designated X-58 Nuremberg. Technicians processed the remains for possible ID and they were interred June 13 in Plot DD, Row 9, Grave 218, USMC Nuremberg as X-58. Arriving the same day among several other sets of remains from Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Germany were four sets of remains from a cemetery in Austria, later designated X-59 to X-61, believed to be four airman killed during a bombing raid in December 1944.
In August 1945, X-58 and X-59 Nuremberg were disinterred and transferred to USMC St. Avold, France, where they were reprocessed and redesignated as X-239 and X-240 St. Avold before being interred side-by-side again. Through further investigation it was determined that Pfc. Ashley was the only unresolved case from the area where the remains were found, so on August 30, 1945, a burial report listed X-239 as Pfc. Fred W. Ashley.
In January 1946 the Q.M General determined after investigation that X-240 St. Avold was Flight Officer Richard Lane. His remains were disinterred August 24, 1948 and were returned to his family where they arrived for internment in Nebraska that December.
X-239 St. Avold was also disinterred in August 1948 for further analysis. Some discrepancies were noted from previous reports, including an embossed plate with X-59 on it and an Army Air Corps uniform. X-239 was disinterred again January 24, 1949 for further analysis and the technician noted two embossed plated with "Fred W. Ashley" on them. A tooth chart was completed at the time.
A March 24, 1949 report on the dental records reported numerous discrepancies and X-239 was disinterred and reprocessed again on June 30, 1949. Though the physical characteristics were all favorable for Pfc. Ashley, the teeth did not match. May 26, 1950, X-239 was declared unidentifiable. August 2, 1950, X-239 was interred at USMC Henri-Chapelle, Belgium in Plot G, Row 5, Grave 72 and the name of Pfc. Fred W. Ashley engraved on the Tablets of the Missing at the cemetery.
And that is the way it remained until my friends and I started investigating several years ago. Through research we determined that X-58 Nuremberg/X-239 St. Avold (Ashley) and X-59 Nuremberg/X-240 St. Avold (Lane) had somehow become switched, resulting in Pfc Ashley going to the Lane family in Nebraska and F.O. Lane being buried in Belgium as unknown. The tough part was convincing all the government agencies and families involved.
We eventually got DNA samples from several members of both families. X-239 was disinterred June 8, 2017 and sent to Offutt AFB for processing, where the remains were identified in April 2018 as F.O. Richard Lane. He was returned to his family and laid to rest June 14, 2018 in the grave that Pfc. Ashley has been occupying for 70 years. The other set of remains were sent to Offutt AFB and recently identified as Pfc. Fred W. Ashley.
My good friend Pat Biddy, who did the lion's share of the work, including trips to the National Archives, Germany, and the Czech Republic, not to mention contacting and hounding numerous government agencies and family members, was a medic in C Troop in the 1980's. I also served in C Troop in the mid 1970's. It is a great feeling to return one of our lost brothers to his family!