The call came from Vic Damon, the 3rd Armored Division webmaster
at www.3AD.com, that they needed my assistance in tracking down
what happened to the remains of a PFC Francis A. Solomon, who
was Killed In Action while serving with the 32nd Armored Regiment
of the 3rd Armored Division during World War Two. I did not know
what company Solomon served in nor the date of his death, only
his service number 33610673 and that he had been temporarily
buried in the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands.
His remains were transported to the USA after the war's end (date
unknown) for repatriation, but there the trail went cold - ice
Sixty-one years had transpired, and here in the year 2006
I am supposed to find where he is buried in the United States?
Quite a challenging and overwhelming task for anyone, even an
experienced researcher. I began by learning that, shortly after
the war, citizens in Margraten and the surrounding area had formed
a foundation for persons who wished to adopt an American soldier's
grave. There a Dutch couple with a son named Bert, decided to
adopt a soldier's grave in appreciation of his sacrifice in liberating
their homeland from Nazi oppression.
In the decades that have passed, the son, Bert Vanhommerig,
recently set out to learn something about that soldier from long
ago, and where he was re-buried and where his family was. Through
the Margraten cemetery adoption foundation, Bert met a lady by
the name of Mrs. Nicole Sproncken who had also adopted a soldier's
grave. Unfortunately, but understandably, Margraten cemetery
authorities were not permitted to divest this privileged information
concerning re-burial and family information.
Nicole, with computer skills, offered to assist the Dutchman.
She contacted the www.3AD.com website, which was able to provide
Solomon's unit, the 32nd Armored Regiment, but no other new information.
Nicole's request for assistance still lacked needed information
of a unit in the 32nd and the date of his death. That is what
was handed to me. I then learned that Solomon had entered the
service at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and was 20 years old at
the time of death. That is where I started. Using Internet sources,
including Ancestry.Com, I narrowed the search to Lackawanna County,
PA, and then hit a brick wall!
Every try turned up empty, but with genealogy sites on the
web I learned that he had Irish stock, and that inspired me to
start checking the County's Irish Catholic Church Cemetery records
by phone calls. No luck with the several calls I made on Friday,
so had to wait until today, Monday, May 1st. Promptly at 7 a.m.
California time, I called the St. James Church Rectory in Jessup,
PA. The lady answering the phone asked if I wanted to hold while
she checked the files. Yes, the Solomon's were buried in their
cemetery in nearby Olyphant and she proceeded to find the burial
records of my long lost soldier, Francis.
While we were having this discussion, another church volunteer,
Patricia Betti, happened to walk in and heard the name "Solomon"
being mentioned. With that, she spoke up and said she was the
grand niece of Frank Solomon, Francis' father. They put Patricia
on the phone and she filled in the blanks on the family genealogy.
Mrs. Betti is a once-a-month volunteer who comes in for an
hour to assist in the office and, as luck would have it,
that was the moment I made the call. It was Destiny.
I learned that Francis was Killed In Action on 13 April 1945
in Germany. After checking my 3AD history book "Spearhead
in the West", I have to assume that he must have been in
either Task Force Hogan or Task Force Lovelady in the vicinity
of Dessau and Wittenberg in crossing the Saale River on that
I emailed the information to Nicole in Holland and that connected
all the dots. Nicole replied by email instantly to say that she
had telephoned Bert and that he was elated over my find where
their American soldier, Francis A. Solomon, is now buried.
I am hoping that when this information is published in the
3rd Armored Division Association Newsletter that any surviving
members of the 32nd Armored Regiment will recognize his name
and identify what Company he served in and recall the circumstances
and whereabouts of his death. This remaining information will
then help close the books for the families concerned.
Publication or reproduction, in part or whole,
is prohibited without written permission from the author, Don
R. Marsh. All rights remain the sole property of The Marsh Family