During World War II, Great Britain experienced an enormous influx of U.S. troops. They poured across the Atlantic Ocean by the thousands, and by June 1944 there was a force of almost three million Americans based in Great Britain. This tour visits the names and graves of nine individuals who lost their lives during the “friendly invasion”- both civilians and servicemen alike.
Louis A. Bolton
607th Graves Registration Company
Sgt. Louis A. Bolton was a nineteen year old from Calif., United Sates. He was a part of the 607th Graves Registration Company. They were preparing for the task of burying the dead during D-Day and beyond. Bolton was killed while participating in a dress rehearsal for the invasion of Utah Beach, known as Exercise Tiger. German torpedo boats ambushed the exercise and hit Bolton’s landing craft, sinking the ship within minutes. All but five members of Bolton’s 607thGraves Registration Company were killed. Bolton’s body was never recovered.
Louis A. Bolton is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery.
Alton Glenn Miller
Army Air Force Band
Maj. Alton Glenn Miller is considered by some to be the father of modern military music. During World War II, Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band entertained over a million troops. He selected servicemen from the best bands in the United States to build a special fifty-member band, the 418thArmy Air Force Band. Based at Yale University, their duties included playing Reveille, Taps, March, Retreat and Entertainment.
The band had no title when it went overseas in June 1944. Under Eisenhower’s command from July 1944, it was known as the Army Air Force Band (Special). In England it was called the American Band of the Supreme Allied Command. On radio it was called the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. RCA Victor labeled it the Glenn Miller Air Force Band.
Towards the end of 1944 the band prepared for a tour of Europe. On December 15, 1944 Miller took off from Twinwood Farm airfield near Bedford, England on a flight to Paris to arrange for the band’s appearance. The weather was very foggy and Miller was heard to remark, “Even the birds are grounded today.” The plane never reached France, and was never found.
Alton Glenn Miller is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery.
Damon J. Gause
Headquarters, 365th Fighter Group
Plot F, Row 3, Grave 85
In 1941, Maj. Damon J. Gause was among the nearly 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers captured by the Japanese and forced into the Bataan Death March in Manila, Philippines. He managed a daring escape, and together with Capt. William Osborne embarked on a 3,200-mile voyage to Australia. For his courage and heroism, Gen. Douglas MacArthur personally decorated Gause with the Distinguished Service Cross.
After his escape and decoration, Gause was given a choice: fly in Europe or stay in the United States promoting war bonds. He chose to fly in Europe. Gause was killed on March 9, 1944 in a training accident. He crashed into the countryside south of London by not pulling out from a vertical dive.
Damon J. Gause is buried in Cambridge American Cemetery Plot F, Row 3, Grave 85.
Thomas C. Costello
553rd Bombardment Squadron, 386th Bombardment Group, Medium
Plot F, Row 4, Grave 78
2ndLt. Thomas C. Costello was a “Jersey boy” and star baseball player in the Camden County Baseball League. In 1942, he traded in his baseball uniform for a military uniform.
After serving as a shipping clerk at Fort Dix, N.J., at Fort Riley, Kan., and finally at Fort Bliss, Texas, he was chosen to attend flight officers’ candidate school. Sent with over 2,400 men to Miami, Fla., for training, he joined Group C, Squadron 14 of the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command as a second lieutenant. He was initially a physical education director, but later reassigned overseas as a transportation officer with the 553rdBombardment Squadron, 386thBombardment Group. He was killed in a road accident on June 7, 1943. Also killed in the accident was another staff officer from the 386thBombardment Group.
Thomas C. Costello is buried in Cambridge American Cemetery Plot F, Row 4, Grave 78.
William Ellis Rutherford
1120th Military Police Company, Aviation
Plot E, Row 3, Grave 77
Cpl. William Ellis Rutherford was one of six children. He, along with three brothers, went to war. Only two returned home to Anna, Texas. Rutherford was attached to the 1120thMilitary Police Company, Aviation. He is one of 34 military policemen buried at Cambridge American Cemetery.
German air forces attempted to demoralize the British with air raids and strategic bombings. From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941 over 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on British cities. During that period, referred to as “The Blitz,” London was attacked 71 times. The result was a strategic failure - the Luftwaffe (German Air Forces) didn’t have the means to achieve decisive results. However, German raids continued throughout the war. Rutherford died on December 3, 1943 while clearing the streets during an air raid.
William Ellis Rutherford is buried in Cambridge American Cemetery Plot E, Row 3, Grave 77.
Emily Harper Rea
American Red Cross
Plot E, Row 6, Grave 69
Emily Harper Rea joined the American Red Cross as a staff assistant and later worked in the U.S. Army Air Force Officers’ club in Bedford, England as senior staff assistant. She was well-known with the 306thBomb Group based nearby, and had even presented bandleader Capt. Glenn Miller with his Major oak leaves when he was promoted from captain to major. He presented her with one of his captain bars.
On April 14, 1945 Rea was killed in a plane crash on the Isle of Man in bad weather. The B-17 had hit the ground with all engines running and struck a stone wall, killing everyone on board. Only a few remains of her body were recovered along with her purse, which still contained Glenn Miller’s Captain bars.
Eight of the eleven that perished in the crash are buried at Cambridge American Cemetery. Rea’s casket was overflowing with flowers on the day of her funeral.
Emily Harper Rea is buried in Cambridge American Cemetery Plot E, Row 6, Grave 69.
Charles J. King
United Service Organization
Plot C, Row 3, Grave 58
Charles J. King was born on October 31, 1886 in New York City and became a vaudeville and Broadway actor in addition to starring in several movies.
By 1908, King had begun acting on the Broadway stage with his first known role in the revue, The Mimic World. In the 1910s his most frequent partner was Elizabeth Brice with whom he appeared in The Slim Princess, A Winsome Widow, Watch Your Stepand others. King continued to appear in many major Broadway successes during the 1920s before turning his attention to Hollywood.
The United Service Organization (USO) was founded in 1941 in response to a request from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide morale and recreation services to U.S. military personnel. Entertainers would participate in USO tours to visit the troops stationed abroad.
King died in London in 1944 from pneumonia while on a USO tour. He was 57 years old.
Charles J. King is buried in Cambridge American Cemetery Plot C, Row 3, Grave 58.
Plot C, Row 5, Grave 21
Herman Douthit is one of 32 civilians buried at Cambridge American Cemetery. His story begins aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth, which brought 44 American oil well drillers to England in an attempt to rapidly increase the output of England’s oil fields in the early years of the war. When the oil well drillers arrived in England they learned they would be drilling within the confines of Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.
Oil production jumped from 300 barrels a day to over 3,000 barrels per day. On November 13, 1943 one worker, Douthit, fell to his death from a drilling mast.
Due to confidentiality (the drillers were told not to speak of their work in England upon their return to the States), the group’s brave deeds went largely unrecognized until 1991, when 15 survivors from the original group returned to see a bronze statue unveiled in their memory.
Herman Douthit is buried in Cambridge American Cemetery Plot C, Row 5, Grave 21.
John J. Seerley Jr.
Headquarters, VIII Fighter Command
Plot C, Row 3, Grave 13
Maj. John J. Seerley Jr., was born in Burlington, Iowa in 1897. He was the son of U.S. Congressman Joseph John Seerley. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and was assigned to the 13thAero Squadron in July 1918. Between August and September 1918 he was credited with five air combat victories. His commanding officer recommended him for promotion to captain, but the recommendation failed to reach the desk of the commanding general until after the Armistice ending World War I.
During the interwar period Seerley established his own investment company in Chicago. He accepted a captain’s commission in air intelligence when the United States entered the Second World War, and was soon promoted to major. He served as assistant to the deputy chief of staff, 8thFighter Command, and was awarded the Air Medal and Silver Star.
Seerley was killed in a vehicle accident on August 21, 1943 in Tetsworth, Oxfordshire, England. He was temporarily interred at the Brookwood American Cemetery. His life of service straddled both world wars.
John J. Seerley Jr. is buried in Cambridge American Cemetery Plot C, Row 3, Grave 13.