- Posted May 14, 2009 by
American Boy Scout’s discovery leads to artifacts of German soldier declared MIA during World War I
WIESBADEN Germany – Two nations, once at war, came together in the village of Steinbach am Backnang April 28 to commemorate a fallen German soldier.
American and German troops held a memorial to honor Wilhelm Härer, who was declared missing in action in 1918 during World War I.
Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commanding general of 1st Armored Division, said it was an honor to join his German comrades in paying tribute to one of their soldiers who had died almost 100 years ago.
In August, the Boy Scouts of America were on an Eagle Scout project with the Argonne Historic Trail Program in the Argonne Forest in France to help clear the trail to where famed Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York earned his medal.
The boy scouts were given permission to use metal detectors to see if they could find anything on a hill behind the actual trail. It was there that Nathaniel Barber, with BSA Troop 4 from Heidelberg, found the first artifacts belonging to Härer.
“We found a gas mask, buttons from his uniform and his dog tags,” Barber said.
The Sergeant York Discovery Expedition has been looking for artifacts since Nov. 11, 2002, to prove York, then a corporal, actually had earned his medal.
During the time the research was being completed, the Germans helped the expedition by providing maps and information from their archives to find the exact location of where the battle took place.
“The Germans were surprised that the Americans were so interested in their regimental military history,” said Col. Douglas Mastriano, co-founder of SYDE as well as a historian and chief researcher. He also serves as an intelligence officer with NATO Headquarters Heidelberg.
The German maps and information provided from their archives helped members of the expedition during the roughly 1,000 hours of time it took to search around the area, named the “York spot,” before they found the artifacts.
After Härer’s dog tags were uncovered, some members of the expedition were unsure what to do with the find.
“We didn’t know if the artifact should be added to Sgt. York’s artifacts,” Mastriano said. “After giving it some thought, I had one of the German soldiers who works in NATO contact the village of Steinbach am Backnang and ask if they wanted to commemorate this soldier.”
Dr. Frank Nopper, the Oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Steinbach, agreed to have the ceremony in Härer’s hometown and have both nations work together to commemorate him.
“We are very happy that the Americans are so involved in the case and that the enemies of yesterday have become friends of today,” Nopper said. “Wilhelm Härer has become a symbol of peace.”
(Story from 1st Armored Division Public Affairs)