Breland: World War II story now put to rest
Published 11:32 am Friday, June 24, 2022
I have wondered about him for a long time.
It was about 2005 when the U.S. navy contacted me at The Daily News about a native Bogalusa man whose remains had been recovered from World War II.
This was all brought to my mind when I read a recent story about a World War II soldier’s remains being recovered that held local interest.
At that time, the Navy was searching for family members of Petty Officer Third Class Elwin Alford to get DNA samples in the identification of him as one of the seven men killed in an airplane crash on the side of a Kiska volcano in the Aleutian Islands. The crash was at the 2,750 level on the northwest side of the volcano on June 14, 1942.
According to military records, an American search team first found the wreckage in 1943 and buried the crewmen in a common grave at the crash site.
Attempts were also made in 1946 and 1947 to recover the remains, but heavy snow prevented the search team from reaching the site. A Canadian professor found the wreckage site while doing research on the island in 2001. The crash site had a cross with the words “Seven U.S. airmen.”
Alford was born Oct. 11, 1922, in Bogalusa, and his parents were Warren E. Alford and Belle H. Alford. They are buried in Hurricane Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Sandy Hook, Miss.
Alford’s sister in Texas was located and gave the DNA samples to the naval officials. He was identified and last I heard, they were planning to send the remains to relatives for burial.
I talked with the sister several times and she told me how their mother had died thinking he would return home any time. She said after her death, they planned to put a memorial stone in the cemetery since they doubted he would ever return.
I have wondered about this so often, but could never get any word, although the Navy had said they would let me know. Last time I talked to his sister, which was a long time ago, she had not heard anything either.
Since my grandfather is buried in the Hurricane Creek Cemetery, we would go by there occasionally and while there, look for any sign of Alford’s burial. We never found anything. Since the people I contacted early on are now deceased, I didn’t know who else to call.
When we want to know something, the Internet is the place to go. I entered his name and lots of sites came up. There I found my original writings for the newspaper and I found what happened with Alford.
The recovery team consisted of nine specialists who used DNA from a maternal line blood sample to compare DNA from a bone fragment of a deceased service member. This comparison can lead to the identification of remains and is used in 50 percent of the cases.
I was relieved to see he has been buried in American War Graves, Arlington Cemetery, Washington. He can be found in Plot 60, Grave 8345. His awards included the Purple Heart, American Campaign Medal and A World War II Victory Medal.
Although he would be 100 years old by now, he should still get the respect needed. We have lost a lot of good people in these wars and they should not be forgotten. I was happy to see he is buried in Arlington.
I wrote a good many World War II stories, but this one has stuck with me. Now I can put it to rest.
Retired as Associate News Editor, Bob Ann Breland writes a weekly column for The Daily News. You can email her at email@example.com.